Today Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL 06) introduced the "Protecting Patients and Physicians Against Coding Act," aimed at ensuring that patient care in rural and small town areas does not suffer with the implementation of the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10). ICD-10 is the newest version of the medical coding system, which includes 55,000 more physician diagnostic codes than ICD-9, as well as 87,000 additional procedural codes. It is tied directly to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. The bill would create a two-year grace period that would ensure healthcare providers can continue to focus on patient care instead of coding and receiving compensation for their care while ICD-10 is being fully implemented. ICD-10 has created significant administrative problems for healthcare providers, who already face heavy burdens dealing with new electronic health records (EHR) systems and Medicare compliance programs.
"The ongoing implementation of ICD-10 creates significant hurdles for rural and small town healthcare providers," Palmer said. "ICD-10 includes a five-fold increase in coding, which threatens to hurt productivity, increase mistakes either from human or technological errors, and create confusion and difficulties as a result.
"These problems threaten to prevent healthcare providers from receiving what they are owed. Current law could prevent them from being reimbursed by the government because of simple coding mistakes or systemic failures. This is especially true concerning physicians with small practices and rural hospitals, which, unlike larger and more established institutions, are less likely to have sufficient resources to fully prepare for the implementation of ICD-10. This threatens to disrupt health care for many Americans.
"This bill is simple. It provides for a two-year grace period during which healthcare providers cannot be denied payment for services rendered due to mistakes or errors in the system. This will provide time for the system to be implemented and kinks worked out without threatening the quality or availability of healthcare for Americans who live in small towns or rural areas. Physicians are in medicine to provide patient care, not to focus on implementing a complicated and burdensome federally mandated coding system. Everyone who is concerned about small-town and rural health care should support this common sense bill."
The bill has 32 original cosponsors, including Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions and fellow Alabama Representatives Mo Brooks, Mike Rogers, Robert Aderholt and Bradley Byrne.