A move in Congress to delay the ICD-10 compliance date by one year to Oct. 1, 2015, could have some legs to it.

The word in Washington is that House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have struck a deal to pass legislation that would again prevent large Medicare payment reductions to physicians under the Sustainable Growth Rate formula as they continue to seek a replacement payment mechanism, says Robert Tennant, senior policy advisor at the Medical Group Management Association. But the legislation, which the House expects to vote on during its session on March 27, also includes one paragraph that would delay ICD-10.

Asked if the Senate would support an ICD-10 delay, Tennant says the answer isn’t yet clear, but, “We’re not heard anything to the contrary.” With the November mid-term elections looming and Democrats smarting from the dismal rollout of the Affordable Care Act, the last thing they want is another healthcare problem right before the elections if the ICD-10 go-live is problematic, he notes.

The legislation is a recognition within Congress that the healthcare industry has shown it is not ready for ICD-10, Tennant says. But as officials in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services continue to insist that current ICD-10 deadline will remain, would President Obama really veto legislation that pushes the deadline back?

Tennant says it is hard to believe that the President would fall on his sword and veto a bill affecting payments to hundreds of thousands of physicians over the issue of ICD-10. “Everyone realizes there are bigger issues here.” And the issues are that an SGR fix is needed before April 1 to avoid payment cuts and mid-term elections loom.

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