An appropriations bill stalled for a half-year in Congress and now possibly moving could be the vehicle by which the ICD-10 code set compliance date is once again extended.

The bill would fund the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies for fiscal 2015, which started October 1, and is viewed as “must pass” legislation during the current congressional lame-duck session in December. Any legislation not enacted by the end of 2014 must be reintroduced in the new Congress that starts in January.

The American Medical Association and its regional societies and delegations are working with Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), chair of the House Rules Committee, and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to add language that would extend the ICD-10 compliance date to October 2017. Getting that language in the proposed legislation may be the easy part, as passage of the HHS/Labor bill through both houses of Congress has been the tough part. However, other bills considered during the lame duck session could be deemed appropriate enough to tack on the ICD-10 language.

Regional medical societies and the National Physicians’ Council for Healthcare Policy are circulating form letters for physicians to send to House Speaker John Boehner, Sessions and Upton, urging that an ICD-10 extension be enacted “in order to allow for physicians to work through the myriad of new government regulations that face us.” The letter also warns of hysteria running through physician offices and “generating many early retirements.”

Even if further delay of the compliance date is not enacted in December, there will be other opportunities in early 2015, including the annual debate over the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula for paying physicians, which was the vehicle last spring for delaying ICD-10 another year to 2015.

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