Friday, January 11, 2013

AMA Urges CMS to Find an Alternative to ICD-9

In a letter to the acting administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Marilyn Travenner, the American Medical Association acknowledged the Obama administration’s decision to delay the implementation of ICD-10 by one year to October 1, 2014.  Despite their appreciation for the decision, the AMA requested that a more appropriate replacement for ICD-9 be found instead of ICD-10.  Updating medical practice management software for the implementation of ICD-10, says the AMA, will create only problems for small practices with no benefit to patient care.

The International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision, or ICD-10, stands as the standardized coding system for outpatient diagnostic codes used in HIPAA transactions, replacing ICD-9.  The letter to Travenner was signed by not only the American Medical Association, but by a multitude of medical organizations such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Endocrine Society and the Medical Group Management Association.   AMA’s reason for asking CMS to halt the implementation of ICD-10 is that it competes financially with EMR implementation and upgrade projects that practices are taking care of to comply with other CMS HIT reporting programs.  They fear that the financial stresses of complying with both ICD-10 and the HITECH Act - and the financial penalties physicians face if they face if they don’t - could be enough to put many smaller practices out of business. 

One argument for the cessation of the implementation was that between training staff to learn the 55,000 additional codes and upgrading practice management software will prove to be too costly, ranging from $83,290 to $2.7 million, depending on the practice’s size.  The AMA also feels that for physicians to learn from and correct errors to avoid penalties before the implementation date would be an impossible feat.  “Stopping the implementation of ICD-10 is a critical, necessary step for removing regulatory burdens on physicians and ensuring that small physician practices are able to keep their doors open.”  The AMA suggested that instead of implementing ICD-10, Travenner and CMS find an appropriate alternative replacement for ICD-9 that will keep physician participation in Medicare programs on track and will greatly reduce the costly financial burdens they face. 

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