MONTGOMERY – As the lone voice for physicians in a room filled with insurance company and hospital representatives, Jeff Terry, M.D., a Mobile urologist, urged a Congressional panel not to implement a massive revision to medical coding known as ICD-10, which he believes could force doctors out of business and threaten patients’ access to medical care.
“The vast majority of America’s physicians in private practice are not prepared,” Dr. Terry told the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee last week. “Physicians are overwhelmed with the tsunami of regulations that have significantly increased the work for our practices. Physicians are retiring early, which could leave countless numbers of patients without a doctor.”
Dr. Terry’s and most physicians’ viewpoint on ICD-10 is at odds with insurance companies and hospital systems, which can more easily absorb the cost of new technology, training and personnel that ICD-10 compliance will require. Small medical practices can’t shoulder the burden of this “costly unfunded mandate” so easily Dr. Terry, a past president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, said.
While the current medical coding system ICD-9 has 13,000 codes, ICD-10 contains more than 68,000 codes including more than 250 for diabetes alone. Though other countries have adopted ICD-10 already, the United States is the only one planning to implement all of the 68,000 new codes and link both a massive coding and complex billing system together.
Unless Congress takes action, ICD-10 will be implemented on Oct. 1, 2015, adding to the growing list of government regulations Dr. Terry said makes it more and more difficult to provide the quality care his patients want and deserve.
“It is harder and harder to keep the patient as the primary focus in our daily activities. ICD-10 is viewed as another expensive distraction with little demonstrated value to improving patient care. The huge costs certainly outweigh the very few benefits. Based on data from other countries, doctors will be forced to reduce the numbers of patients they see after ICD-10 is implemented,” Dr. Terry said.