Association Supports Rep. Palmer’s ICD-10 “Grace Period” Bill

The Medical Association of the State of Alabama has endorsed H.R. 2652 by Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL-06), which will protect patients’ access to care and lessen the burden on physicians, particularly in rural and smaller practices.

The “Protecting Patients and Physicians Against Coding Act” would give physicians a two-year grace period in which they would not be penalized for errors with the new federally mandated ICD-10 system that’s used to document code medical procedures and services. ICD-10 contains more than four times the codes used with ICD-9. For physicians, more time spent poring over tens of thousands of medical codes during a patient’s visit equates to less quality time with that patient.

“We are very concerned about the ICD-10 mandate,” George “Buddy” Smith Jr., M.D., president of the Medical Association, said. “Not only does it not improve patient care, but it may provide insurers four times as many reasons to deny necessary medical services and procedures because of coding errors.”

John Meigs, M.D., a family physician from Centerville and a member of the Medical Association’s Board of Censors, said he anticipates serious problems if H.R. 2652 is not adopted.

“The new coding system does nothing for patients or doctors. It’s for insurance companies and bean counters,” said Dr. Meigs. “It will get in the way of the care patients in rural areas badly need. There hasn’t been much in terms of a trial run. To avoid serious disruptions, there’s going to need to be a grace period where physicians get a chance to get used to this new system.”

Congressman Palmer thanked the Medical Association for supporting his bill, the “Protecting Patients and Physicians Against Coding Act.”

“Physicians and other health care providers are in the business to provide care, not to master a complicated and burdensome federally mandated coding system,” Congressman Palmer said. “Protecting patient access to health care is very important. Rural areas and small towns are most at risk from the implementation of ICD-10, practitioners in those areas with smaller practices tend to have fewer resources and they rightly focus on patient care instead of government coding. Because of this, I offered an amendment to recent to legislation delay ICD-10’s implementation. Unfortunately, the amendment was not accepted.”

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