ICD-10 coding likely to play a big role in healthcare reforms

Carl Natale
by Carl Natale
ICD-10 coding likely to play a big role in healthcare reforms

Any effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) shouldn't kill ICD-10 coding. The two were mandated by separate laws from separate presidents.

To kill ICD-10 coding, there needs to be language in a law specifically reversing the course of medical coding. It's hard to imagine Republicans doing that for a couple reasons.

First, another ICD switch would be chaotic and expensive — a popular point that physicians argued and gained sympathy among lawmakers. It's not like they can just dust off those ICD-9 code books and go back to ICD-9 nirvana. Do they really want to pay for another ICD transition so soon? (or ever?)

Second, the ACA does take advantage of ICD-10 coding to measure quality outcomes in healthcare. This is a move to control healthcare costs. And no one is talking about letting healthcare costs run free.

Soon to be Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Tom Price is going to be a big fan of anything that lets government measure healthcare and control fraud, waste and abuse.

John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, says many of the goals in the ACA likely will be the same goals shared by Republicans. No, he doesn't say ICD-10 coding is part of that or will support those goals.

In fact, he includes ICD-10 implementation as one of the government mandates that prevented healthcare IT from innovating. At this point, repealing ICD-10 implementation would be another government mandate that sapped resources that could have gone into innovation. To be clear, Halamka did not express that view.

Since ICD-10 coding is now on the books, and Republican healthcare reforms are unlikely to reject data, expect ICD-10 data to be part of how healthcare is measured no matter what repeal and replace looks like.