Judging from a House hearing last week, Congress is unlikely to further delay implementation of the ICD-10 coding system. Of course, few predicted last year's congressional decision to put it off for a year.
At the hearing, held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Health Subcommittee, members of Congress from both parties opposed any more delays. Six of seven healthcare officials who testified called for proceeding with the conversion. The sole opponent was a doctor concerned that private-practice physicians are not prepared.
The switch to new diagnostic and procedural codes for providers and insurers is set to take effect Oct. 1, after three postponements.
“We need to end the uncertainty,” said Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), chairman of the subcommittee. “No more delays in the transition to ICD-10,” added Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.).
The Government Accountability Office recently issued a report raising concerns about the CMS' readiness for the transition. In response, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chairman and ranking member of the Finance Committee, respectively, issued a joint statement indicating they believe the agency is prepared.
The CMS twice delayed ICD-10 implementation. The third and most recent postponement was part of legislation Congress passed last year to provide a temporary “doc fix” to avoid Medicare payment cuts to physicians.
Last week's hearing included testimony from experts about preparations for the switch. All but one supported moving forward as scheduled. “Maintain the current date for ICD-10 implementation, or cancel it once and for all. Do not allow another delay,” said Kristi Matus, chief financial and administrative officer for health information technology company Athenahealth.
The lone dissenter was Dr. William Jefferson Terry, a 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,” he said.
Terry's solo stance evoked a sympathetic response from Rep. Gene Green, a Texas Democrat and ranking member of the subcommittee. “You probably feel like you're at the Alamo,” he said.