The American Health Information Management Association reversed its support of a proposed HHS timeline for the implementation of a comprehensive new set of medical codes, calling instead for a three-year buffer and an Oct. 1, 2012, deadlinea full year longer than what the government wants.
AHIMA's previous stance drew criticism from organizations like the Medical Group Management Association and American Medical Association.
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The move puts the association in line with myriad other providers and coders who, in comment letters filed to HHS last week, also called for a 36-month delay to help the industry more smoothly transition to the new ICD-10 codes, said Dan Rode, vice president for policy and government affairs with AHIMA, the main trade group for some 52,000 health information management professionals.
Our concern was from talking to providers and vendors of all different sorts that the three-year timeline was necessary, Rode said.
The proposed rule, issued in August, calls for an Oct. 1, 2011, switchover date, something AHIMA and more than 100 provider and hospital groups called unrealistic. "Given that the (HHS deadline) is already less than three years away, we didn't feel like we could continue with that date," Rode said.
AHIMA officially made its comments in a detailed Oct. 20 letter to HHS. The letter also pushes for a quick release of a final rule as a way to prompt the industry to move more rapidly while still holding firm to a 36-month timeline from the date the rule gets published.
"As time passes, implementation costs will continue to escalate, ICD-9-CM codes will become completely unworkable, resulting in an inability to create new codes to describe medical advances and new medical knowledge, and healthcare decisions will continue to be made that are based on increasingly unrealizable and inaccurate coded data," the letter states.
A recent study, funded in part by the American Medical Association, found that the implementation of the new codes under the HHS deadline could cost some large practice groups close to $2.73 million, though more commonly it would run anywhere from $83,000 to $285,000.
Some of the costs would be one-time only, such as adding and training staff, upgrading information technology systems and insurance-plan review, the study concluded. Cash flow disruption during the transition was listed as the second-largest cost, and would equal $19,500 for the typical small practice, $65,000 for the medium-size practice and $650,000 for large practices.
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