The American Medical Association’s crusade against ICD-10 continues. When the AMA’s House of Delegates met last week, it wasn’t just to address public health concerns like obesity and gun control: it was to reaffirm its resistance to the way ICD-10 implementation is being planned and enforced. In order to avoid the anticipated payment disruptions and productivity losses, the AMA wants a two-year grace period for coding errors, in which payers would be barred from denying claims due to ICD-10 coding errors or a lack of specificity.
In addition to forbidding denials, payers would be required to provide constructive feedback on all ICD-10 errors including incorrect diagnoses and unspecified codes. While this sounds like good news for providers, the additional burden this will place on payers may just be pushing the financial effects of the transition slightly downstream, not get rid of the problem. And if the current implementation climate is any indication, providers will simply put off education and documentation improvement as long as humanly possible, causing another scramble to get ready for the AMA’s predicted financial ruination two years from now.
The vote also included a wholesale rejection of a recent internal report that found skipping ICD-10 for ICD-11 is not recommended. This means that the AMA will continue to lobby CMS to stick with ICD-9 until ICD-11 is available at some unspecified point in the future. Last week’s resolution stated that the AMA will continue to “assess an appropriate replacement for ICD-9 and evaluate the feasibility of mobbing from ICD-9 to ICD-11 as an alternative to ICD-10,” regardless of the fact that the report they just snubbed was designed to do exactly that, but came up with an answer they didn’t like.
While the AMA has valid concerns about the financial impact of ICD-10, and it’s true that providers are nowhere near ready to tackle the obstacles facing them in the few short months until October 1, 2014, they’re not doing much to help the situation by giving reticent providers hope that there will be a miracle. Both CMS and the ONC have firmly stated that 2014 will be the date, and the AMA will need to get on board soon if they really want to help providers avoid a disaster.
Physicians always insist that patients take their medicine when it’s prescribed in order to avoid complications down the line. Why isn’t the AMA investing in a little preventative care for their members instead of pretending that this necessary evil is just going to go away if they ignore it long enough?