Two Republican House committee leaders announced plans to hold a status hearing next year on ICD-10 preparations in a statement that supports—although somewhat tepidly—the current CMS timeline to implement the diagnostic and procedure codes next fall.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said Upton's committee “has been working with CMS to ensure the Oct. 1, 2015 implementation is achieved and is prepared to have a hearing on the issue in the new year.”
“As we look ahead to the implementation date of ICD-10 on Oct. 1, 2015, we will continue our close communication with the (CMS) to ensure that the deadline can successfully be met by stakeholders,” their statement said.
A rumor circulated earlier this week that Sessions might be willing to insert language to further delay ICD-10 in a spending bill that must pass before Congress adjourns this month to avoid a government shutdown. A healthcare consultant close to the issue threw cold water on the speculation, and lawmakers unveiled legislation Tuesday that indeed lacks any mention of it.
The renewed conversation about ICD-10 comes after the Texas Medical Association called for its 48,000 members to write their legislators and seek a two-year pushback of the start date.
The American Medical Association has had a long-standing policy opposing ICD-10 implementation.
Other ICD-10 watchers, however, remain wary of a possible second congressional intervention in what had been solely the CMS' business. Authority to mandate an update from the aging ICD-9 codes in current use was granted to the agency by Congress in 1996 in the “transactions and code sets” sections covering administrative simplification in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
But in March, a single sentence was inserted into the Medicare “doc fix” legislation that ordered HHS to push back the then-in-effect start date for ICD-10 of Oct. 1, 2014, by at least a year.
HHS did, resetting the ICD-10 compliance deadline at Oct. 1, 2015.
Sessions' Texas roots make him a potential candidate for carrying the mail legislatively for the TMA, while Upton is on good terms with the AMA as a recipient this March of its Dr. Nathan Davis Award for “outstanding leadership” in trying to end the AMA-hated Medicare sustainable growth-rate formula.
For now, though, it appears the two congressional leaders are focused more on oversight than on derailing ICD-10.
“This is an important milestone in the future of healthcare technologies, and it is essential that we understand the state of preparedness at CMS,” the statement from Upton and Sessions said. They acknowledged hearing from people and organizations concerned about the lack of progress after the most recent delay but did not signal they would entertain delaying it further. “It is our priority to ensure that we continue to move forward in healthcare technology and do so in a way that addresses the concerns of all those affected and ensure that the system works.”
Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn