Alabama passes joint resolution to delay ICD-10

State lawmakers urge CMS to hold off on the code set conversion
By Tom Sullivan
01:39 PM
Alabama House of Representatives photo by Exothermic via Wikipedia

State senators in Alabama passed a joint resolution calling on Congress to hold off on ICD-10.

“We hereby urge Congress to delay the implementation of ICD-10 and create an impartial committee to study the problems with implementation and develop recommendations to address the many unintended consequences that have not been adequately evaluated,” according to Senate Joint Resolution 279.

What does this actually mean?

Not all that much. In reality, such a joint resolution is little more than public advocacy – though it is technically coming from a state government rather than an industry group, such as the American Medical Association, or a private enterprise. And the SJR arrived on the heels of Alabama Republican Rep. Gary Palmer’s proposed Protecting Patients and Physicians Against Coding Act of 2015 that would institute a two-year grace period during which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would be prohibited from denying claims.

[Related: ICD-10 reality and rhetoric.] 

SJR 279, in fact, uses language very similar to Palmer’s when suggesting that if Congress opts against delaying ICD-10 it should instead adopt a two-year grace period wherein “physicians will not be penalized for errors, mistakes, or malfunctions of the system,” and claims won’t be rejected.

The proposed legislation and the joint resolution also come as the AMA held its annual meeting. AMA delegates from Oklahoma called for physicians to boycott the code set conversion outright, a suggestion that was shot down due to concerns it could trigger legal action from the Federal Trade Commission. The AMA, instead, voted in a policy to advocate for a two-year grace period. 

And that idea appears to be garnering the most support. Prior to Rep. Palmer’s attempt, Tennessee Republican Rep. Diane Black brought the ICD-TEN Act (Increasing Clarity for Doctors by Transitioning Effectively Now) to the House floor – two weeks after freshman Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, MD, publicly advised Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell that “the reasonable thing would be to delay the penalty phase for two years.”

Will other states follow in Alabama’s footsteps and enact similar resolutions? And, if many do, will CMS really have any choice other than to incorporate a transition period after the Oct. 1, 2015 compliance deadline, much the way it did for HIPAA 5010?

Related articles:

3 ways Congress could still kill ICD-10 

ICD-10 Coalition hits back at Heritage attack

3 things to know about the Cutting Costly Codes Act of 2015