Senator Calls for Halt to ICD-10 Implementation

Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., (R-Okla.), has co-authored a white paper that calls on the Department of Health and Human Services to halt the implementation of the new ICD-10 code set. Coburn also wants Congress to hold hearings to evaluate the cost-benefit of mandating that the new codes be used.

In the four-page paper, “ICD-10 Implementation Date: Better Never than Later?,” the Senator argues that adoption of the new coding system will place a substantial financial burden on healthcare organizations, as well as require physicians to devote a significant amount of their time and energy toward learning to use it, instead of focusing more on their patients.

“Financially, ICD-10 implementation will transfer limited health care money away from sick patients to administrators, businessmen and IT consultants,” Coburn argues. “In addition…ICD-10 implementation will likely have a substantial opportunity cost on physicians trying to provide the best care for their patients as well. Doctors nearing retirement may find it easier just to leave medicine a few years early, rather than deal with learning the new coding system. If this happens, the adoption of ICD-10 could contribute to, and even encourage, the current physician shortage.”

Coburn also points out that the increase in the number of different codes — from 18,000 in the current ICD-9 coding system to the 140,000 included in the new version — is excessive and could produce new fraud charges against physicians and other providers who misunderstood one of the codes and subsequently improperly billed.

“While compliance with ICD-10 will be frustrating for doctors, ultimately it will be the patients that suffer the most from less attention devoted to their care,” Coburn says. “HHS should take another look at ICD-10 and halt its implementation to prevent this needless expenditure of consumers’ and providers’ time and money.”