The CMS decision to accept nonstandard electronic Medicare claims after the Oct. 16 HIPAA transaction compliance deadline is helping maintain continuity of care for patients and the financial viability of healthcare providers, according to a new survey.
In a monthly poll of its membership, the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society says 76% of the 200 information technology professionals who responded last month call the September CMS ruling "crucial" to continuity of care and cash flow from reimbursements. Just 16% call the government's decision unnecessary.
In keeping with this positive view of CMS action, 56% of HIMSS survey respondents say the Medicare contingency plan mitigates an "imminent crisis" by giving extra time for medical practices and hospitals to meet the HIPAA requirements.
However, only 16% say the move actually prevents a crisis, while 26% indicate they believe it only postpones an inevitable slowdown in cash flow.
CMS says it will accept claims in nonstandard formats as long as healthcare entities show good faith in working toward HIPAA compliance and only for a limited, but unspecified, period of time.
In the HIMSS survey, opinions on the appropriate duration of the reprieve follow a near-perfect bell curve. About 42% say the contingency should be in place for three to six months, while 21% call for leniency for 31 to 90 days and 25% want six to 12 months of extra time. Just 3% say that the grace period should last 30 days or less, and 6% want CMS to extend the delay for more than a year.
The Medicare agency is allowing private payers to implement their own contingencies. A 55% majority of survey respondents say this decision will delay HIPAA compliance because every payer has its own policy, though a strong minority of 39% say this diversity is necessary because healthcare providers vary so much in their own readiness.
Sentiments also are mixed on whether CMS should reconsider its pronouncement that it would no longer accept paper-based Medicare claims, HIMSS says.