Health care organizations attempt to move forward amid ICD-10 delay

When the bill containing language that delayed the implementation of ICD-10 was passed earlier this month, many health care organizations believed that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would immediately issue guidance on how best to proceed with preparation efforts. The CMS had been forthright about best practices before the bill passed, providing information on testing protocols and timelines for organizations that had not yet begun preparations for ICD-10 or were behind in their relative scales of readiness.

More than a week after ICD-10 was officially pushed back to Oct. 1, 2015, the CMS has yet to release any statement on the delay. This has left health care organizations across the country in relative disarray, as many are confused about what to do with their extensive and expensive training processes. However, some organizations, such as the American Health Information Management Association, have begun asking critical questions among themselves as the CMS remains frustratingly silent on the ICD-10 delay.

Asking questions without answers
Health care organizations watched the ICD-10 delay bill move through Congress without much worry that it would pass. However, when it did, the industry immediately began wondering what would happen next. 

With nothing but silence from the CMS, the AHIMA has begun hosting webinars for its more than 72,000 constituent members on the uncertain future that health care professionals face regarding ICD-10. Sue Bowman, the AHIMA's senior director for coding policy and compliance, said in an April 4 webinar that everyone has many questions they want to ask, but there have been very few answers from the CMS as of yet.

"Someone had asked, 'What is the process for issuing a new compliance date?' We're not entirely sure what it has to be due to the fact that this was congressional language," Bowman said. "The compliance date in the past has always been a regulatory process with a proposed rule and a final rule, so we're not sure if they would have to actually issue a regulation and then go through the regulatory process to pass a new compliance date."

Bowman also said that this legal wrangling could be a major reason for the CMS' silence on the monumentally important ICD-10 delay. With so many congressional peculiarities to keep track of, crafting the necessary legal language would take much of the CMS' time and resources to produce something capable of significant effect as soon as possible.

Does that mean that the CMS could possibly overturn the ICD-10 delay? Margarita Valdez, the AHIMA's director of congressional relations, said in an April 4 webinar that this may not be realistic, according to the Journal of AHIMA.

"Since this is an election year in the House, unless it was introduced, had a hearing, and was passed, the likelihood of passing a rescind bill before October is almost slim to none," Valdez said.

Gauging response to the delay
Of course, the AHIMA and other health care organizations that are clamoring for guidance from the CMS are working off the assumption that the original transition date to ICD-10 was a good thing. With over a week to garner responses from the industry, Healthcare IT News reported that many organizations are relieved that they now have more time to prepare for a later transition.

KLAS, an independently owned analytics company, surveyed the opinions of various health care groups after the ICD-10 delay had passed, and vendors, payers and providers may all see the moratorium on the new medical billing codes as a blessing in disguise. Whether these groups need the extra time for supplemental preparation or to mitigate the estimated losses in revenue resulting from disrupted workflows, these organizations are not waiting for the CMS to break its silence as much as others may be.