The October deadline for ICD-10 is fast approaching, to the consternation of many in the healthcare community. While almost everyone agrees that this new coding system is long overdue, there is similar consensus that stakeholders simply aren’t ready for the transition. That has many worried that the deadline will create chaos throughout the industry.

Members of congress, particularly those with either a personal or political tie to the healthcare industry, have begun to champion this sentiment. A recent house bill proposed by Tennessee Republican Rep. Diane Black – H.R. 2247 – calls for an 18-month transition period following the move to ICD-10. The existing deadline would stand firm, but throughout the transition period, the HHS would be required to submit reports to congress indicating whether the ICD-10 standard is fully functioning and whether provider claims are being accurately fulfilled. The bill would also restrict the CMS from denying claims that are submitted with unspecified or incorrect subcodes.

The proposal for this bill – cleverly titled ICD-TEN or Increasing Clarity for Doctors by Transitioning Effectively Now – follows shortly behind a proposal from Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, MD that the HHS avoid penalizing providers for a period of two years after the October, 10 deadline. He also advocated for permitting providers to use both ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes during this period.

For those on the other side of the equation, these calls for a transition period represent just another procrastination. There are some healthcare organizations and industry associations that acknowledge the problems with ICD-10 preparedness and the short four months until the deadline, but believe that problems are inevitable and can only be overcome by committing to a meaningful rollover. Right now no decision has been made, but with the debate escalating and stakeholders on both sides pushing plans forward it seems inevitable that the near-term fate of ICD-10 will soon become clear.

For those without a reach into government, the onus falls on preparation. Anyone affected by this transition needs to be taking steps now to train staff on the new coding standards and bring staff on board to manage the challenges and mitigate the conflicts. That requires a careful mix of talent. If your organization is unprepared for ICD-10 – and frankly most are at this point – identify the expertise you are missing and start searching for it now. Find the right hire faster by working with the specialized staffing experts at MedPartners HIM.

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