Moments after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the one-year delay of the temporary Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) "doc fix" bill, Healthcare Informatics spoke to Sharon Canner, senior director of public policy of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) about why the ICD-10 provision was in the bill to begin with.
HCI learned, according to Canner, that the language concerning the ICD-10 element was created at the behest of a coalition of specialty medical societies under what is called a re-valued code provision. Canner said that in order to mollify these societies, there was a promise to delay ICD-10. Canner was unaware of how long ago this promise was made, saying, “It’s an election year, meaning a lot of funny business is going on that is not entirely clear. We learned this yesterday, and remember, with legislation, there is always some provision that is important to a given group.” Canner went on to say that it is unknown why these specific groups—and she was unclear on what specific medical societies were involved—had a say in regard to the ICD-10 delay.
Canner did believe, however, that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) was unaware of this promise, which falls in line with what CMS Administrator, Marilyn Tavenner, R.N., said at HIMSS14 in Orlando this February, when she asserted firmly that CMS and HHS would not consider any further delays in the ICD-10 transition beyond Oct. 1 of this year.
Agreeing with CHIME CEO Russell P. Branzell, Canner believes a delay at this point would very disruptive and costly. “Training has been done for coders and systems have been delivered. Many hospitals are working on Stage 2 of meaningful use, so this just adds to it. We’re too far along,” she said.
The bill still needs approval of the Senate before Congress' deadline of midnight on Monday, March 31, and Canner said that it is a very real possibility that the bill can be modified—and still pass—without the ICD-10 delay in it. “The game is still going, and even if the Senate passes this, the White House can veto it. We have miles to go,” Canner said.
The House’s enactment of the temporary SGR “doc fix” came down to politics and the fact that 2014 is an election year, says Loren Adler, research director for the Washington D.C.-based Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
“Once it’s not an election year, maybe the chances of getting permanent fix increase. Of course that’s been said for a while, so who knows. But the optimist has to stay hopeful part of the reason Congress didn’t see a permanent fix this year is it being an election year, which makes it hard to do anything on the beneficiary side in Medicare,” says Adler, who expects the bill to pass the Senate and be signed in to law by President Barack Obama on Monday.