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Last month the DWC posted proposed regulations to transition the states workers’ compensation system from the decades old ICD-9 to ICD-10 in anticipation of a national transition to ICD-10 which was scheduled to occur next October. But things change quickly in D.C. This week the U.S. Senate approved a house bill that will delay the national transition another year, or until at least October 2015. An the health care industry reacted badly to this news. It took the Senate nearly five hours Monday to debate and approve a bill that would temporarily fix the sustainable growth rate for docs and also delay ICD-10 one year. The curious — and disconcerting — thing is, during that time not a single Senator made mention of the ICD-10 provision included in the bill, leaving many industry officials questioning: Do they even know what they just voted on? Either way, overall the folks in healthcare were not very happy.

The American Health Information Management Association expressed “deep disappointment” that the Senate approved H.R. 4302, the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, which included language delaying the ICD-10 deadline until October 1, 2015. “It has been estimated that another one-year delay of ICD-10 would likely cost the industry an additional $1 billion to $6.6 billion on top of the already incurred costs from the previous one-year delay,” according to the AHIMA statement. “This does not include the lost opportunity costs of failing to move to a more effective code set.” AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon said that the organization is seeking immediate clarification on a number of technical issues including the exact length of the delay, given that the bill states that the Department of Health and Human Services cannot adopt the ICD-10 code set as the standard “until at least” October 1, 2015.

Similarly, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives issued a statement that it was “extremely disappointed” by the Senate’s vote to join the House in approving legislation that delays ICD-10 implementation until 2015. “We understand the considerable hours, resources, and money CHIME members and their organizations have spent preparing for the transition,” stated the organization. “This pause in momentum discredits the significant work our industry has spent training staff, conducting testing, and converting systems; not to mention the hold on improving care quality and accuracy, advancing clinical reporting and research, and patient safety outcomes.” In its statement, CHIME said that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “must now provide new guidance to the industry on what the delay means for providers, vendors, clearinghouses and other concerned parties” due to the fact that “the delay leaves numerous unanswered questions from testing, training and revamping the agency’s education resources, such as the CMS eHealth University, designed to help providers understand, implement, and successfully participate in the conversion process.”

H.R. 4302, the so-called “Doc-Fix” bill, also suspends Medicare’s sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula that would have cut the physician reimbursement rate this year by nearly 24 percent. Ardis Dee Hoven, M.D., president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement that AMA was “deeply disappointed” by the Senate’s decision to enact a 17th patch to fix the flawed SGR formula. Congress has spent more taxpayer money on temporary patches than it would cost to solve the problem for good,” Hoven said. “This bill perpetuates an environment of uncertainty for physicians, making it harder for them to implement new innovative systems to better coordinate care and improve quality of care for patients.”

The American Coalition for Healthcare Claims Integrity, which represents Recovery Audit Contractors and other government auditing contractors, also released a statement charging that the legislation “absolves” inpatient hospitals–which account for 91 percent of over-billings to Medicare–from oversight by the RAC program, which has recovered over $8 billion since 2009. “Our coalition supports the ongoing improvement of Medicare integrity programs. However, by sanctioning the loss of billions to waste, fraud and abuse, this ‘doc fix’ falls short of that goal,” said Becky Reeves, coalition spokeswoman.

Although it has not been announced, the DWC will likely delay its proposed rule making on ICD-10 to conform to federal timelines.