HHS Delays ICD-10 Deadline

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responds to increasing pressure from AMA and others to reduce regulatory 'burden' from the new medical billing coding system.
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Bowing to pressure from the American Medical Association (AMA) and others, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has agreed to delay the timeline for healthcare providers to switch to ICD-10 coding.

On Thursday, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that the department would "initiate a process" to push back the ICD-10 compliance deadline from Oct. 1, 2013, to an unspecified later date.

"We have heard from many in the provider community who have concerns about the administrative burdens they face in the years ahead. We are committing to work with the provider community to reexamine the pace at which HHS and the nation implement these important improvements to our healthcare system," Sebelius said in a statement.

According to HHS, the decision was part of the Obama administration's "commitment to reducing regulatory burden," a phrase used by many administrations, both Democratic and Republican, in the past.

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The news comes just two days after Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), told a gathering of AMA leaders in Washington that the federal government would "re-examine the timeframe" for ICD-10 implementation. The AMA, which recently wrote to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and to Sebelius to ask for a halt to the ICD-10 deadline, on Thursday praised Sebelius for her "quick response" to the organization's concerns.

"The timing of the ICD-10 transition could not be worse for physicians as they are spending significant financial and administrative resources implementing electronic health records in their practices and trying to comply with multiple quality and health information technology programs that include penalties for noncompliance. Burdens on physician practices need to be reduced--not created--as the nation's healthcare system undertakes significant payment and delivery reforms," AMA president Dr. Peter W. Carmel said in a written statement.

Several health IT advocacy groups are urging healthcare providers, payers, and technology vendors not to slow down their ICD-10 compliance efforts.

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), which opposed the AMA's call for delay, continues to advocate for switching to the new coding system as quickly as possible. In the wake of Tavenner's remarks on Tuesday, AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon highlighted the healthcare quality and efficiency benefits that ICD-10 promises to deliver. An organizational spokeswoman said Thursday that AHIMA was preparing an official response to the new HHS decision.

In an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare Wednesday, H. Stephen Lieber, CEO of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), said that he pretty much agreed with the AHIMA recommendation.

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