The federal government plans to delay for 1 year a requirement that doctors and other health care providers begin using the ICD-10 standard for diagnosis and procedure codes. Physicians will now have until Oct. 1, 2014, to come into compliance with the standard.
Federal officials are also hoping to ease administrative burdens by requiring health plans to use a single, uniform identifier for all their transactions. Both changes were addressed in a proposed rule released on April 9.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced earlier this year that the health care community would get more time to get up to speed on ICD-10 (formally known as the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision), but the proposed rule firms up that commitment.
Many physician organizations, including the American Medical Association, complained to the HHS and a member of Congress, arguing that the implementation of the ICD-10 codes will create a significant burden. And it would carry a hefty price tag – close to $100,000 for smaller practices and more than $2 million for large ones, according to the AMA.
Part of the problem, according to the HHS, is that medical practices are having trouble meeting the compliance deadline for a necessary prerequisite for ICD-10, the Associated Standard Committee’s X12 Version 5010 standards (Version 5010) for electronic health care transactions. Moving the compliance deadline for the so-called 5010 standard from October 2013 to October 2014 will give physicians more time to prepare and test their systems, the HHS wrote in its proposed rule.
The proposed rule also outlines a related measure: a plan to require health insurers to adopt a standard national unique health plan identifier, or HPID. Currently, health plans use multiple identifiers of differing lengths and formats. The vagaries of these identifiers can cause improper routing of transactions, difficulty in determining patient eligibility, and other claims processing errors. Health insurers must begin to use the standardized HPID by Oct. 1, 2012.
The use of a unique identifier will allow medical practices to make greater use of automation in claims processing, according to the proposed rule, in turn saving time and money. And, cleaner claims with fewer errors should compound the savings. HHS officials estimate that over 10 years, the return on investment for the entire health care industry will be between $700 million and $4.6 billion. The adoption of the unique health plan identifier is one of a series of regulations mandated by the Affordable Care Act and aimed at simplifying health care administrative transactions.