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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that an upgrade to the medical-coding standard will be postponed for a year, The Wall Street Journal Health Blog reports.
Originally set for implementation in 2013, the coding set known as will now go into effect on October 1, 2014. In a press release, HHS said the delay will give doctor and health insurers “more time to prepare and fully test their systems to ensure a smooth and coordinated transition to these new code sets.”
When the ICD-10 update is completed, the number of diagnosis and procedure codes used in medical billing will expand greatly, from around 18,000 in the current ICD-9 code set to about 140,000. Not surprisingly, the American Medical Association doesn’t favor the change, saying that the increase in codes will further burden doctors without improving care.
HHS said that the proposed coding changes – which would also establish a unique health plan identifier that could be used in billing – “would save health care providers and health plans up to $4.6 billion over the next ten years.”
To get some idea of the scope of the 120,000+ new codes, take a look at this Wall Street Journal article from September 2011. Suffice it to say, if you’re ever burned by flaming waterskis, there’s a code for that.