Medical Billing System Rollout Date Is Elusive

Posted April 24, 2015 at 3:24pm

The American Hospital Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans have pushed to stick with the current plan for implementing the ICD-10 billing system. Many organizations began working toward the conversion of codes years ago. An initial target date for ICD-10 was October 2011, which was then pushed to October 2013. The date was delayed to October 2014, which was most recently kicked to October 2015.

Those seeking further delay or accommodation with the implementation deadline often cite the expected jump in the number of billing codes among their reasons. Estimates vary. William Jefferson Terry, a doctor representing the American Urological Association told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee the ICD-9 system uses about 13,000 codes, but ICD-10 will require 68,000. But no doctor will be expected to use more than a subset of these codes, said Richard Averill, director of public policy at 3M Health Information Systems, at the same hearing.

He likened this to the 470,000 words found in a common English dictionary, of which any one person will only use a select number.

Averill also noted technologies have been developed to help manage this transition, including free apps for phones. “If you wanted to really splurge, there is one for $1.99 that will give you a few bells and whistles on your iPhone to look up a code, and if you take that technology, in a few seconds you could look up almost any ICD-10 code,” he said.

Yet, even with these technologies available and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services preparing for an Oct. 1 implementation, veteran health IT professionals remain alert for signs of another delay.

“I don’t think anyone who has lived through all of the other delays could possibly say there’s no chance, particularly after what happened last year,” athenahealth’s Dan Haley said. “What I have been saying internally is that last year they got it to the 10-yard line and this year it seems like it’s on the one. It seems almost certain.”