MONTGOMERY ─ An Alabama Senate Joint Resolution urging Congress to delay the mandated implementation of ICD-10 on Oct. 1 and lessen the burden on Alabama’s medical practices was enacted this week.
“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is forcing this unfunded mandate on the health care community, and it couldn’t come at a worse time,” SJR 79 sponsor Sen. Tim Melson, M.D. (R-Florence), said. “Physicians are already overburdened by federal reporting regulations, such as meaning use of electronic health records and the Physician Quality Reporting System that will straddle the ICD-10 start date of Oct. 1. Adding ICD-10 to the mix will only make matters worse for physicians who are only trying to treat their patients.”
If implemented on Oct. 1, the International Classification of Diseases and Related Problems, 10th Version (ICD-10), will replace the current ICD-9 system requiring physicians and their office staff to transition to a coding system with more than 68,000 diagnostic codes – four times more than ICD-9’s current 13,000 codes. Though other countries have adopted ICD-10, the U.S. is the only country planning to fully adopt ICD-10’s complete catalog of 68,000 diagnostic codes and tie it to a medical billing system.
Jeff Terry, M.D., a Mobile urologist and past president of the Medical Association, was the only physician to testify before a Congressional panel earlier this year that the implementation of ICD-10 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. “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.”
Physicians widely agree the conversion to the new coding system will not improve patient care, but the overnight conversion to the new system could provide insurers with four times as many reasons to deny necessary medical services and procedures for patients because of coding errors.
“CMS is putting the computer between the doctor and the patient with ICD-10,” Sen. Larry Stutts, M.D., (R-Tuscumbia), co-sponsor of the resolution, said. “As we saw with the rollout of the federal health exchanges, there were a lot of technical problems. With CMS planning to implement ICD-10 on one single day, there are no guarantees we won’t see the same types of problems again. Thirteen thousand codes are already too many. Instead of adding more complicated coding we need to simplify the process.”
Transitioning to ICD-10 requires an abundance of costly and time-consuming education for physicians and staff, software, coder training, and equipment testing. This unfunded mandate will be most costly for private medical practices forced to pay $80,000 to $2.7 million to complete the transition.
Read more about Act 2015-279 and delaying implementation of ICD-10.