AMA explains silence on ICD-10 delay

April 1, 2014 in Medical Technology

Industry observers and insiders alike were a bit surprised that the American Medical Association did not appear overjoyed with the prospect of ICD-10 being pushed back.

The AMA, after all, has taken a stance “vigorously opposed “ to implementing the code set. Until the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 came along, that is, and the organization spoke out against that proposed legislation without mentioning anything about ICD-10. It had its reasons.

Now  that the bill passed the Senate and is awaiting President Obama’s signature into law, the AMA’s position remains squarely in the opposition.

[See also: ICD-10 delayed, doc pay patched again.]

“The American Medical Association did not support H.R. 4302 since the bill unwisely extended a fiscally irresponsible pattern of congressional procrastination that has perpetuated Medicare’s fatally flawed sustainable growth rate formula,” said AMA president Ardis Dee Hoven, MD.

Simply put: The extra time for ICD-10 is not worth the price and instability of yet another patch to SGR. That price, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) explained on Monday actually “exceeds the cost of repeal.” That’s according to Congressional Budget Office estimating that the U.S. has thus far dumped $146 billion on the patches while the total cost of repeal would be $116 billion.

An AMA spokesperson said that, despite rumors to the contrary, the organization was not responsible for Section 212 of the bill, which prohibits HHS from adopting ICD-10 as the standard code set prior to Oct. 1, 2015.

When asked about reports suggesting that perhaps 212 was added to entice the AMA into accepting the bill, the spokesperson said if that was the intention it did not work.

That said, the AMA of course welcomes more time for ICD-10 and reaffirmed that it will not change course.

[See also: ICD-10 delay rattles industry groups.]

“The AMA and other physician organizations strongly agree that while a delay in ICD-10 implementation provides welcomed temporary relief, it does not offset the continued harm caused by keeping the SGR formula on life support and further delaying badly needed Medicare physician payment reforms,” Hoven said. “The AMA remains committed to relieving physicians of the crushing administrative burdens and practice disruptions that are anticipated during the scheduled transition to ICD-10.”

It’s worth noting that during the hours of debate in both the House and Senate, not one member of Congress mentioned ICD-10 and exactly who got Section 212 into the bill remains something of a mystery.

A number of Senators, however, did rail against a temporary patch of SGR, saying it is full of budget fakery and merely kicking the can down the road, again.

This story first appeared on Government Health IT, a sister publication of Healthcare IT News.

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