Federal health officials are using an administrative simplification rule to propose delaying by one year the implementation of new diagnosis coding sets used for billing medical services.

ICD-10 diagnosis codes would be required for billing physician services starting on Oct. 1, 2014, according to the April 9 proposed rule from the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Currently, doctors and hospitals use the ICD-9 standard, which contains far fewer individual codes but also permits less specificity when making diagnoses. The proposed rule is expected to be finalized this year after a 30-day comment period.

The American Medical Association led the movement to push off the ICD-10 implementation deadline, citing concerns about doctors’ ability to be compliant by Oct. 1, 2013. The substantial number of new codes that must be learned, combined with initial problems with implementing the new 5010 electronic transaction standards that are a prerequisite for taking on the new code sets, presented a substantial burden for physician offices, the AMA said.

Physicians also were being asked to meet several other quality and health information technology initiatives at the same time as the coding upgrade, including adoption of electronic health records and participation in the physician quality reporting system. The October 2013 deadline would have come at a particularly inopportune time, the Association has said.

Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, signaled to physicians that HHS was re-evaluating the ICD-10 deadline during the AMA National Advocacy Conference in Washington on Feb. 14, but she did not indicate how long the implementation delay would be. The proposed rule formalizes the one-year delay and a plan to establish a unique identifier for health plans.

The proposed rule is the latest in a series of administrative simplification policies authorized by the national health system reform law. HHS estimates that cutting red tape for health professionals and plans will save them up to $4.6 billion in administrative costs during the next decade.

Requiring each health plan to have a single, unique identifier is designed to eliminate problems that arise when plans and other third-party administrators use different identifiers that lack a standard length or format. This can result in processing, payment or eligibility mix-ups, HHS said.

“These important simplifications will mean doctors can spend less time filling out forms and more time seeing patients,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

The full and original article can be found at: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/04/09/gvsc0412.htm