TMA Gets Its Wish: ICD-10 Grace Period Issued For A Year

The Texas Medical Association has been granted its wish, sort of: ICD-10 will be implemented with “flexibility,” meaning physicians will have to implement the new coding system on Oct. 1, but a yearlong grace period will shield them from penalties.

The TMA, the largest physician association in the country, had joined forces with medical associations in New York, Florida, and California to urge the feds to give doctors time to get used to the new system before issuing fines. Says Dr. Tom Garcia, TMA president:

“A giant burden was slightly eased for physicians today with news of an ICD-10 transition grace period. Having a year to convert our medical practices — and the entire American health care infrastructure — to this gargantuan new coding system without as many penalties for errors will allow us to spend more time practicing medicine and focusing on patients.

But about that “sort of” in the first sentence: Garcia is concerned that a year won’t be long enough for physicians to acclimate to the, as he puts it, “gargantuan new coding system.” Calling ICD-10 an “obstacle to care,” he writes that the federal government should allow for a two-year grace period to give more time to vendors, government, and physicians to align. Here’s his full statement:

“A giant burden was slightly eased for physicians today with news of an ICD-10 transition grace period. Having a year to convert our medical practices — and the entire American health care infrastructure — to this gargantuan new coding system without as many penalties for errors will allow us to spend more time practicing medicine and focusing on patients.

“However, I am concerned that one year will not be sufficient for all of the doctors in communities large and small to overhaul coding practices that have been in place for a generation. I’m worried that the software vendors, government, and other links in this complex chain will not be ready. If so, physicians will suffer burdensome bureaucratic and financial consequences, and their patients will suffer delays in care. I hope CMS will extend the one-year, penalty-free and audit-free grace period if we need more time.

“ICD-10 is going to be an obstacle to care, which is why we continue to call for CMS to scrap it altogether. Short of that, we applaud our federal leaders for recognizing they and the carriers must be flexible so as not to tie up Medicare patients in even more red tape.

“Two years of transition time, on-the-job learning by physicians — plus our continued ICD-10 educational activities — would have resulted in a much less disastrous transition to this overwhelmingly complicated new coding system. One year is a good start.”

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