The upcoming implementation of ICD-10 on October 1st, 2015 has led to concerns about how medical offices and the medical billing industry will be affected. Some have associated the updated medical classification list with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, believing that the ACA is responsible for coming up with this change to medical coding. Here’s a closer look at the facts behind common misconceptions about ICD-10 and Obamacare.
Does the ACA require changing from ICD-9 to ICD-10?
No, the ACA is not directly responsible for this change. The switch to ICD-10 was first proposed in 2008, before the ACA was enacted. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services officially established ICD-10 as the new coding system for the U.S. in 2009. Since then, this change has been postponed twice in order to give medical practices more time to prepare software systems and train medical billing staff. Despite previous postponements and delays in 2013 and 2014, the Oct. 1, 2015 deadline is not expected to change. It’s important to note that many other industrialized nations, including the UK, Australia, China and Korea, made the switch to using ICD-10 years ago, while the U.S. has been using ICD-9 for the past few decades.
Why has it been called the Obamacare Med Coding System?
In Jan. 2014, a prominent national news TV channel aired a segment on the concerns that healthcare professionals have about the upcoming change from ICD-9 to ICD-10. A podiatrist interviewed during the segment claimed that she would have to significantly drop the number of patients she sees per day in order to spend time dealing with ICD-10 coding. TV channel didn’t mention the ACA during the video, but the name of the segment that appears online and on the bottom of the screen is “Concerns Over New Obamacare Coding System.” This choice of wording has led some viewers to mistakenly believe that the ICD-10 change is part of the ACA, when, in fact, it isn’t. The World Health Organization (WHO) developed this latest version of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10), which was first officially endorsed in 1990.
Is the ACA forcing the US to switch to an international coding system?
A blog post that went viral last year claimed that under Obamacare, American healthcare systems would be forced to switch to the WHO’s international coding system with the implementation of ICD-10. However, as previously mentioned, the U.S. has already been using ICD coding for decades. ICD-10 is a revision of ICD-9, the coding system that is currently in place. This blog post, which has a headline that includes “Obamacare Medical Codes” in it, also caused controversy after pointing out that ICD contains a code for Legal Execution via Beheading, although this is only included in the coding system for the purpose of collecting death statistics. Once again, the choice of words used caused a mistaken association between the ACA and ICD-10.
Is there any link between Obamacare and ICD-10?
While the ACA did not create ICD-10 or officially establish it as the new medical coding system in the U.S., the implementation of ICD-10 does support the quality initiatives that are part of the ACA. ICD-10 contains roughly 55,000 additional codes compared to ICD-9, allowing more specific coding for medical conditions and greater transparency. The full implementation of ICD-10 should lead to more precise coding that can benefit the healthcare industry and patients alike, such as more clearly defining medical requirements for expanded Medicaid coverage and making it easier to differentiate between a pre-existing condition and a new injury. While the transition to ICD-10 is not expected to be a smooth one, it is expected to eventually lead to improved medical coding and billing procedures.
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