On July 6, 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the American Medical Association (AMA) released a joint statement about their efforts to help the provider community get ready for ICD-10. This statement included guidance from CMS that allows for flexibility in the claims auditing and quality reporting processes.
In response to questions from the health care community, CMS has released “Clarifying Questions and Answers Related to the July 6, 2015 CMS/AMA Joint Announcement and Guidance Regarding ICD-10 Flexibilities,” which provides answers to the most commonly asked questions.
Q: When will the ICD-10 Ombudsman be in place?
A: The Ombudsman will be in place by Oct. 1, 2015.
Q: Does the guidance mean there is a delay in ICD-10 implementation?
A: No. Medicare claims with a date of service on or after Oct. 1, 2015, will be rejected if they do not contain a valid ICD-10 code. The Medicare claims processing systems do not have the capability to accept ICD-9 codes for dates of service after Sept. 30, 2015, or accept claims that contain both ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes for any dates of service. Submitters should follow existing procedures for correcting and resubmitting rejected claims.
Q: What is a valid ICD-10 code?
A: ICD-10-CM is composed of codes with 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 characters. Codes with three characters are included in ICD-10-CM as the heading of a category of codes that may be further subdivided by the use of fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh characters to provide greater specificity. A three-character code is to be used only if it is not further subdivided. To be valid, a code must be coded to the full number of characters required for that code, including the 7th character, if applicable. A complete list of the 2016 ICD-10-CM valid codes and code titles is posted on the CMS website.
Q: What should I do if my claim is rejected? Will I know whether it was rejected because it is not a valid code versus denied due to a lack of specificity required for a NCD or LCD or other claim edit?
A: Yes. Submitters will know if a claim was rejected because it was not a valid code versus a denial for lack of specificity required for a NCD or LCD or other claim edit. Submitters should follow existing procedures for correcting and resubmitting rejected claims and issues related to denied claims.
Q: What is meant by a family of codes?
A: “Family of codes” is the same as the ICD-10 three-character category. Codes within a category are clinically related and provide differences in capturing specific information on the type of condition. One must report a valid code and not a category number. In many instances, the code will require more than 3 characters to be valid.
Q: Does the recent guidance mean no claims will be denied if they are submitted with an ICD-10 code that is not at the maximum level of specificity?
A: In certain circumstances, a claim may be denied because the ICD-10 code is not consistent with an applicable policy, such as Local Coverage Determinations or National Coverage Determinations. (See Question 7 for details). This reflects that current automated claims processing edits are not being modified as a result of the guidance. In addition, the ICD-10 code on a claim must be a valid ICD-10 code. If the submitted code is not recognized as a valid code, the claim will be rejected. The physician can resubmit the claims with a valid code.
Q: National Coverage Determinations (NCD) and Local Coverage Determinations (LCD) often indicate specific diagnosis codes are required. Does the recent guidance mean the published NCDs and LCDs will be changed to include families of codes rather than specific codes?
A: No. For 12 months after ICD-10 implementation, Medicare review contractors will not deny physician or other practitioner claims billed under the Part B physician fee schedule through either automated medical review or complex medical record review based solely on the specificity of the ICD-10 diagnosis code as long as the physician/practitioner used a valid code from the right family of codes. The Medicare review contractors include the Medicare Administrative Contractors, the Recovery Auditors, the Zone Program Integrity Contractors, and the Supplemental Medical Review Contractor. The recent guidance does not change the coding specificity required by the NCDs and LCDs. Coverage policies that currently require a specific diagnosis under ICD-9 will continue to require a specific diagnosis under ICD-10. It is important to note these policies will require no greater specificity in ICD-10 than was required in ICD-9, with the exception of laterality, which does not exist in ICD-9. LCDs and NCDs that contain ICD-10 codes for right side, left side, or bilateral do not allow for unspecified side. The NCDs and LCDs are publicly available and can be found here.
Q: Are technical component only and global claims included in this same CMS/AMA guidance because they are paid under the Part B physician fee schedule?
A: Yes, all services paid under the Medicare Fee-for-Service Part B physician fee schedule are covered by the guidance.
Q: Do the ICD-10 audit and quality program flexibilities extend to Medicare fee-for-service prior authorization requests?
A: No, the audit and quality program flexibilities only pertain to post payment reviews. ICD-10 codes with the correct level of specificity will be required for prepayment reviews and prior authorization requests.
Q: If a Medicare paid claim is crossed over to Medicaid for a dual-eligible beneficiary, is Medicaid required to pay the claim?
A: State Medicaid programs are required to process submitted claims that include ICD-10 codes for services furnished on or after Oct. 1 in a timely manner. Claims processing verifies that the individual is eligible, the claimed service is covered, and that all administrative requirements for a Medicaid claim have been met. If these tests are met, payment can be made, taking into account the amount paid or payable by Medicare. Consistent with those processes, Medicaid can deny claims based on system edits that indicate that a diagnosis code is not valid.
Q: Does this added ICD-10 flexibility regarding audits only apply to Medicare?
A: The official guidance only applies to Medicare fee-for-service claims from physician or other practitioner claims billed under the Medicare Fee-for-Service Part B physician fee schedule. This guidance does not apply to claims submitted for beneficiaries with Medicaid coverage, either primary or secondary.
Q: Will CMS permit state Medicaid agencies to issue interim payments to providers unable to submit a claim using valid, billable ICD-10 codes?
A: Federal matching funding will not be available for provider payments that are not processed through a compliant MMIS and supported by valid, billable ICD-10 codes.
Q: Will the commercial payers observe the one-year period of claims payment review leniency for ICD-10 codes that are from the appropriate family of codes?
A: The official guidance only applies to Medicare fee-for-service claims from physician or other practitioner claims billed under the Medicare Fee-for-Service Part B physician fee schedule. Each commercial payer will have to determine whether it will offer similar audit flexibilities.