Why are physicians once again asking Congress for further delay of the ICD-10 compliance date? It’s a simple reason, says Jeff Terry, MD, an urologist in Mobile, Ala. “CMS won’t talk to doctors, so that’s why we have to go to Congress.”

During the December 2014 lame-duck session of Congress, physician organizations including state and regional AMA delegations are pressing members of the House and Senate to approve a delay of ICD-10 until October 2017. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll keep trying in early 2015 to attach an amendment to legislation moving through Congress.

Terry, chair of the Alabama delegation of the American Medical Association, has been active in pushing for the delay, including traveling to Capitol Hill. His message: “Yes, we need a new coding set, but not at this time.”

While members of the HIT Now Coalition also have been knocking on legislators’ doors with a message that further delay would cause disruption for coalition members, Terry’s response is harsh. “They don’t even know what it will do to physicians. They need to talk to rural docs not taking a paycheck anymore so staff can be paid.” And ICD-10 will only make the financial crunch worse because the industry will not be ready come October 2015, he contends.

In the mind of many physicians, CMS is worried about how further delay would affect coders, Terry says. “Well, give me a break. This isn’t about coders; it’s about doctors and their patients.”

Physicians also worry that ICD-10 is all about getting more money back from physicians, he notes. They fear that CMS and other insurers will save money by auditing practices making ICD-10 mistakes. “If I don’t get it right, someone is going to come six months later and say, ‘This isn’t right,’ and take money from me.”

A scenario of physicians retiring to avoid ICD-10 related disruption is becoming real, Terry warns. “This is not hysteria, in my community people already are retiring. So, we no longer have a very good vascular surgeon in our town.”

Going live nationwide on ICD-10 in one day just doesn’t make sense, Terry says, and CMS knows this because it is suggesting that physicians need three-to-six months of operational costs set aside to aid in paying bills and payroll after the switchover.

Again, it isn’t that physician are just against ICD-10, they want concerns addressed and a smoother rollout, according to Terry. “It would be nice to have a new coding system; we just need to do it the right way.”

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