Have you ever been bitten by a sea lion? Pecked by a turkey? Or had two collisions in succession with a lamppost?
Welcome to ICD-10 — where each of the above scenarios has a corresponding government-mandated code.
The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is a coding system used in most countries for research purposes. Here in the U.S., the medical community is also forced to use it for billing. Currently, the U.S. operates under ICD-9, which has 14,000 diagnostic codes.
On October 1, 2015, doctors in the U.S. may be forced to implement the tenth iteration: ICD-10, which has five times as many codes as its predecessor — nearly 70,000 diagnostic codes. Some of these new codes include injuries like getting hurt at the library, suffering burns due to water skis set on fire, suffering injury in an unspecified balloon incident or being mauled multiple times by a duck.
The absurdity of these examples aside, ICD-10 will have serious, costly consequences for physicians and patients. With 56,000 more new mandated codes, ICD-10 will require extensive training for providers and their staff. That's time away from patients. It's also money spent on code training instead of being used to hire another doctor or nurse to actually help treat patients.
The use of the wrong code — a realistic possibility, given tens of thousands of codes — can be punished with a significant penalty. Adding an even thicker layer of bureaucracy between patient and doctor, ICD-10 could cost medical practices an estimated $56,000 to $8,000,000 to implement, depending on the size of the practice. After Canada implemented ICD-10, the Vancouver Island Health Authority reported that the average coding time more than doubled, from 12-15 minutes to 33 minutes under ICD-10. The new system helped create a significant backlog of 139 days.
All this time and money being spent on coding means less time for doctors to treat a problem. The harsh reality is that not a single dime of this mandate will help patients.
Just this week, the Obama administration announced a one-year grace period for the implementation of the new code system. Yet this new guidance does nothing for physicians who are unable to implement this costly program by the October 1 deadline. At the very least, both physicians who attempt to implement this burdensome mandate and those who are unable to fully implement it should be given serious relief. The best solution would be to scrap ICD-10 altogether. That is why we introduced and co-sponsored H.R. 2126, the Cutting Costly Codes Act of 2015. If passed, this legislation will prohibit the federal government from forcing medical providers to adopt ICD-10. This is just one small way of putting families, patients, and doctors back in charge of health care, instead of having it run by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington.
The federal government must let doctors do what they are trained to do — help people. A new system of 70,000 codes and classifications is not only ill advised, but completely unhelpful to medicine. Doctors want to help the sick and injured — let's help them to do that instead of being tied down with endless paperwork.Tom Price is a Republican representing Georgia's 6th congressional district. Ted Poe is a Republican politician representing Texas's 2nd congressional district.