No further delays should occur in implementing the ICD-10 coding system for Medicare payments, said legislators from both sides of the aisle during a congressional hearing Wednesday. Six of seven healthcare officials who testified agreed. The lone dissenter was a doctor concerned that most private practice physicians are simply not prepared.
The switch to new diagnostic and procedural codes for providers and insurers is currently set to take effect Oct. 1, following three postponements, two administrative and one legislative.
“We need to end the uncertainty,” said Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health, which held the hearing.
“No more delays in the transition to ICD-10,” added Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.).
Last week, the Government Accountability Office issued a report that raised some concerns about the CMS' readiness for the transition to the new payment system. In response, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman and ranking member of the Finance Committee, issued a joint statement indicating that they believe the federal agency is prepared.
Implementation of ICD-10 has twice been delayed through administrative decisions by the CMS. The third and most recent postponement was included in legislation passed by Congress last year primarily designed to avoid steep cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.
Wednesday's hearing included testimony from seven healthcare experts about preparations for the switch to ICD-10. All but one supported moving forward as scheduled.
“It is decision time,” said Kristi Matus, chief financial and administrative officer for the health information technology company Athenahealth. “Maintain the current date for ICD-10 implementation, or cancel it once and for all. Do not allow another delay.”
“You cannot blink,” added Dr. Edward Burke, an internist in Missouri. “Putting off ICD‐10 is not blinking; it's closing your eyes.”
The lone dissenter was Dr. William Jefferson Terry, an urologist from Alabama. He described ICD-10 as a “costly unfunded mandate” that will result in doctors going out of business. “The vast majority of America's physicians in private practice are not prepared,” Terry said.
Terry's lonely stance caused Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), the ranking minority member of the subcommittee, to express some sympathy. “You probably feel like you're at the Alamo,” Green said.
Terry's response: “I have my Kevlar suit on.”
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