Just as too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the soup, too many lobbyists on Capitol Hill can turn a piece of legislation into a convoluted casserole of random additions and amendments. But despite the recent efforts of a small-but-powerful group of physician advocates, a proposed two-year ICD-10 delay did not get baked into the $157 billion Departments of Labor-Health and Human Services-Education spending bill that Congress passed on December 11.
This was a huge win for the pro-ICD-10 camp, which includes the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), national and regional hospital associations, physician groups, and numerous healthcare companies and organizations. Still, there is a lingering concern among these stakeholders that the October 1, 2015, ICD-10 implementation date is no sure thing. After all, the previous go-live date of October 1, 2014, didn’t get the kibosh until this past March, when lawmakers slipped language ordering a one-year delay into HR 4302—more commonly known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) fix bill.
So, assuming that Congress whips up another batch of SGR legislation this coming spring—as it has done for 17 consecutive years—the question at hand is: will history repeat itself? Will Congress mix an ICD-10 delay into the annual fix bill yet again? Only time will tell—and a lot could happen between now and March 31, especially with a new crop of congresspeople descending upon Washington in January.
But even if those opposed to the ICD-10 transition attempt to pull the same maneuver in 2015, experts say their efforts likely will be in vain. As Chuck Buck, the publisher of ICD10monitor, writes in this blog post, “…it will be hard to convince members of Congress that more time is needed. If Congress didn’t see the need to enact a delay in December, why would they be convinced to delay months later in March?”
Perhaps one of the biggest motivators for Congress to make sure the transition happens in 2015: the financial implications of another delay. Many healthcare organizations have already invested millions of dollars into providing ICD-10 training for their staff and upgrading their technology and business operations to accommodate the new code set. And with a two-year delay, those organizations likely would have to redo much of that costly prep work. “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that the cost to delay the implementation could potentially reach $6.8 billion,” Buck continues in his post. Plus, the cost of another delay isn’t limited to that astronomical price tag; putting the ICD-10 implementation on the backburner for two more years would introduce yet another barrier to providing the best, most cost-effective patient care possible.
At this point, it’s too early to say for sure that the ICD-10 switch will happen in October. However, one thing is certain: another delay would be tough to swallow, and it would leave a lot of people in the healthcare industry with a bad taste in their mouths.