Is Tavenner trying to delay ICD-10?

The fight over ICD-10 continued on Tuesday as CMS acting administrator Marilyn Tavenner said at an AMA meeting that CMS wants to reexamine the pace of implementing ICD-10.

The Massachusetts Medical Society tweeted that docs in attendance cheered, hardly a surprise given that the American Medical Association has been leading the charge to have ICD-10 blocked altogether.

[Related: The imminent industry association Civil War over ICD-10.]

According to tweets sent by the AMA, Tavenner said at the meeting Tuesday that the aim is to reduce the administrative burden that the unfunded mandate places on physicians and providers.

Those themes, of course, are tightly-aligned with the AMA’s own reasoning for blocking ICD-10, presented in letters to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, as well as House Speaker John Boehner.

But it’s also worth pointing out that Tavenner, as acting administrator, is currently vying for the official appointment that her predecessor Donald Berwick, MD somewhat contentiously did not receive. And when President Obama nominated Tavenner in late November, in fact, AMA president Peter Carmel, MD, publicly supported her nomination.

It’s incredibly unlikely that Tavenner or CMS would actually stop ICD-10 in its tracks, for a whole host of political reasons, not the least of which are potential lawsuits against the federal government by those providers and payers that have already spent millions on the conversion.

“We’re all way too far down this pike for somebody, anybody, even the government to say ‘Oh, we were just kidding, let’s stop this foolishness and skip to the next rev,’” Chris Chute, MD, DrPH, who spearheads the Mayo Clinic’s bioinformatics division and chairs the WHO’s ICD-11 Revision Steering Group, told me during a call on Monday. “I think you would hear a howl of frustration and angst that would be impressive.”

Which really means that the most Tavenner can actually even promise is a compliance delay.

 

Tom Sullivan is the editor of Government Health IT.