Speaking at the American Medical Association’s Advocacy Conference in Washington, Acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner on Feb. 13 pledged that the agency will re-examine the pace of ICD-10 implementation. That likely means the agency’s longstanding contention that the Oct. 1, 2013, compliance date for ICD-10 will not change now is seriously in flux.

Tavenner later told reporters at the conference that details on CMS’ position would be announced in coming days. There are rumors that the announcement could come within hours, and a CMS source told Health Data Management, “An announcement is in clearance that will constitute our public comment.”

The AMA has actively fought against ICD-10 implementation after its House of Delegates took a hard line on the issue last fall. Other organizations haven’t called for the abandonment of ICD-10, but warn of financial and implementation difficulties to meet the existing compliance date because of many other competing regulatory requirements.

AMA President-Elect Jeremy Lazarus, M.D., on Feb. 13 issued the following statement:

“The AMA appreciates that Ms. Tavenner and the administration have heard our concerns and have recognized the significant challenges and burdens ICD-10 implementation will create on the practice of medicine, and that they are committed to reviewing the pace of implementation. The AMA welcomes the opportunity to discuss ICD-10 implementation, along with many overlapping regulatory requirements that are burdening physician practices.”

Chantal Worzala, director of policy at the American Hospital Association, released the following statement:

“The AHA appreciates CMS’ willingness to reconsider the timeline for ICD-10 implementation. The AHA is supportive of the move to ICD-10 because it brings benefits for better clinical documentation, logical incorporation of codes for new technologies and greater specificity to support accurate payment. However, changes in the environment that have occurred since ICD-10 was mandated for October 2013, including meaningful use, are putting significant pressures on hospitals.  Implementing ICD-10 on schedule requires that the transition to 5010 go smoothly.  It also requires that all parties be ready.  We are closely tracking readiness of vendors and providers to implement ICD-10.”

In an interview, Robert Tennant, senior policy advisor for government affairs, at the Medical Group Management Association, says the question is not a matter of a compliance date, but of processes being in place before a date is set. For instance, CMS needs to conduct a pilot test to better understand the ramifications of ICD-10 implementation before setting a compliance date.

He raised the possibility of different compliance dates for hospitals and physicians, and noted that Canada didn’t even migrate to ICD-10 on the outpatient side. The new commitment by CMS is timely, Tennant says, because if a compliance date or dates need to be shifted it should be now before so much money and resources are spent on implementation, and not a month or so before Oct. 2013.

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