Tavenner comments prompt varied responses

Acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said Feb. 14 that the agency would take another look at the timeline for converting from the ICD-9 billing code set to ICD-10. Her comments prompted responses across the healthcare industry.

“Why can’t we stick to what we commit to,” asked Wendy Whittington, MD, chief medical officer, at Anthelio Healthcare Solutions. Whittington, who focuses on ICD-10 issues at Anthelio, said she recognizes that conversion to ICD-10 will be costly and time-consuming.

“But changing the date at this late juncture only makes things worse,” she said, noting that many healthcare systems have already invested time and money to meet the Oct. 1, 2013 deadline.

The American Medical Association (AMA) cheered Tavenner’s willingness to reconsider the timeline, while the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) urged everyone to stay the course.

The AMA released the following statement from AMA President-elect Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD:

"The AMA appreciates that Ms. Tavenner and the administration have heard our concerns and have recognized the significant challenges and burdens ICD-10 implementation will create on the practice of medicine, and that they are committed to reviewing the pace of implementation. The AMA welcomes the opportunity to discuss ICD-10 implementation, along with many overlapping regulatory requirements that are burdening physician practices."

AHIMA, which has advocated conversion to ICD-10 and sticking to the Oct. 1, 2013 deadline all along, also issued a statement, urging healthcare systems to continue with their work on ICD-10.

“This is a promise from CMS to examine the timeline, not to change it,” said Dan Rode, vice president for advocacy and policy at AHIMA.  “But government officials are sending mixed signals that many in the healthcare community will interpret as a reason for delay.”

Rode said that any delay in the transition preparation for ICD-10 would both increase costs and could diminish the value of other programs, including meaningful use.

Whittington agreed. “How long are we willing to use a coding system that doesn’t work for us and that prevents us moving forward with meaningful comparative-effectiveness research and ultimately evidence based medicine?” she asked. “The decision to put off ICD-10 is a setback in modernizing our healthcare system and brings more uncertainty into an already chaotic environment.”

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