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There’s a Code for That

Hospitals and physicians have to adopt a new generation of medical diagnosis codes that include codes for injuries sustained while crocheting, time spent in a deep-freeze refrigerator and even that “routine” injury that occurs during a spacecraft landing. These injuries sound far-fetched, but beginning in October, medical professionals will be forced to comply with this new coding system.

This may sound made-up. Unfortunately, it’s all too true. The Tenth Edition of the International Classification of Diseases, more commonly referred to as ICD-10, adds more than 120,000 codes filled with redundancies and unnecessary complexities. Health experts anticipate problems industry-wide because of the cost of the changeover, the time to learn the new system and the time taken away from patient-care as providers focus attention on coding.

As a former healthcare provider, I understand the impact of policies and mandates to this industry. That’s why I’m concerned about a new diagnosis coding system the healthcare community is forced to adopt. Our health care providers are already facing problems navigating Obamacare. This maze of new codes makes things more difficult and struggling with another mandate at this time will only make matters worse.

HHS rightfully postponed the enactment of ICD-10 by one year. However, I’m hoping we can make it a permanent postponement. This is why I joined with other doctors in the senate to introduce the Cutting Costly Codes Act of 2013, S. 972, which would prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from implementing ICD-10.

Survey results by Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange (WEDI) published in December 2013 indicate that the healthcare industry has not made the amount of progress that is needed for a smooth transition to ICD-10 and there has been limited testing of the new coding system.

The sponsors of the Cutting Costly Codes Act of 2013 recently sent a letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner questioning CMS’ scope of testing for the ICD-10 billing code system. Considering the failure in the launch of Healthcare.gov, we have a reason to worry and that is why we need to test all aspects of the system.

We need a healthcare system that allows physicians to spend time serving patients. ICD-10 creates more paperwork and time away from the people they are supposed to help. This is crazy bureaucracy that does nothing to make patients healthy. I’ll continue fighting against this mandate.

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