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Insurers anticipate early ICD-10 billing problems

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According to a recently updated set of medical diagnostic codes called the ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition), there are now over 70,000 ways to get hurt, become ill, or die — as opposed to just 14,000 ways in the previous edition. Preparations for the transition from the ICD-9 to the ICD-10 codes have been under way since 2010, but the transition was only made official by the federal government on Thursday, NPR reports. This set of alphanumeric codes, used to classify diseases and injuries, is maintained by the World Health Organization and is a standard global diagnostic tool. “I think there could be a lot of delays in payments and a cash-flow crunch across medicine,” says Peter Masucci, a pediatrician from Everett, Massachusetts. “That’s the biggest concern.”

Though Obama Administration health officials hail the ICD-10 as a system that will identify the best ways to manage most medical conditions, as reported by Bloomberg, to doctors and other health care providers the revised coding system adds more paperwork and could slow payments from the government and private insurance companies. Claims can be rejected if they are not specific enough or use the wrong codes. Such mistakes may take a considerable amount of time to iron out, as both health care providers and insurers adapt to the new coding system.

“Basically everyone who works in health care interacts with this code system — it’s really the language that’s used to communicate from the clinical side to insurers,” says Niko Skievaski, a health information technology professional based in Madison, Wisconsin. Skievaski, aware of just how much the updated coding system affects everyone in the the health care industry, and also finding the detail of the codes amusing, created an illustrated book based on the codes, called W56.22xA Struck by Orca: ICD-10 Illustrated. He was not the only one to make light of the codes, as many doctors and nurses took to social media to mock codes such as W61:33 Pecked by Chicken, Y08.01 Assault by Hockey Stick, V91.07xA Burn Due to Water Skis on Fire, and R46.1 Bizarre Personal Appearance. All jokes aside, the 14,000 or so codes appearing in the ICD-9 had not been updated since 1979 and no longer accurately reflected the complexity of modern medicine. Here’s an ICD-10 parody video by NueMD, a medical billing software company:


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