Dear Congress: Don't greenlight an ICD-10 ban

In Hollywood, studio executives have a tendency to milk every drop out of a movie franchise until its appeal dries up and withers away. Nowhere is this more evident than in the horror genre, where shark attacks have been reduced to a punchline, and masked serial killers continue to breathe oxygen after a countless number of deaths.

Cue up the John Williams score: Measures to halt or vanquish ICD-10 implementation have officially entered this domain.

In the latest chapter of this saga, Rep. Ted Poe of Texas last week introduced a bill to Congress that wouldn't simply delay the new codeset; it would ban its use outright.

The bill, known as the Cutting Costly Codes Act of 2015, prohibits the federal government from requiring medical professionals to comply with ICD-10 in lieu of ICD-9.  If this were a film, it likely would be called "ICD-10 Delay: The Final Chapter."

According to Poe, ICD-10 will not make one single patient healthier. Rather, he says, it will "put an unnecessary strain on the medical community" by forcing them to learn and use "a whole new bureaucratic language."

I thought we had cut the head off of this beast already. It's been established time and again that transitioning to ICD-10 by Oct. 1, 2015, will be a difficult task, particularly for smaller providers who lack the same financial and human resources as larger hospitals and health systems.

But that doesn't mean that the transition to an updated system should never take place. ICD-9 was implemented in the U.S. in 1979. Medical technology has progressed by leaps and bounds since that time; shouldn't coding progress with it?

As I suggested in a previous column, perhaps the federal government should step in with a bit more aid for struggling physicians than a few testing periods and some literature on making the switch. Incentives for timely implementation are an enticing thought, although such funding almost certainly would have to be pulled from one program to make that happen.

That said, I don't think a death sentence for ICD-10 is an answer, either. With Congress and the White House touting the benefits of health IT more than ever, now is hardly the time to stand pat.

A third sequel to the ICD-10-delay saga should not be greenlit. - Dan (@Dan_Bowman and @FierceHealthIT)

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