Medical billing codes are used by doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies to track each patient procedure and ensure that the doctors are paid. The ICD-9 code has been in place since the 1970s. The ICD-9 was scheduled to be replaced with ICD-10 by October 2014.
The conversion would add tens of thousands of unique codes to the medical billing structure, an increase to roughly 72,000 codes in ICD-10 from about 4,000 codes in ICD-9. Advocates for ICD-10 argue that the new coding system is necessary to modernize the billing code to capture the variety of medical treatments available now that did not exist in the 19070s. Additionally, they argue that a more detailed code will allow for more precise medical research and data collection.
Despite the benefits of moving to an ICD-10 medical billing system, the transition over the last five years has been difficult. In order for the transition to be smooth and successful all parties need to switch to the ICD-10 codes at the same time. Many smaller practices were not able to dedicate the training time and resources to complete the transition by October of this year.
However, larger facilities, hospitals, and insurance companies with more resources were able to dedicate time and money to implementation measures and preparation. In fact, many have spent millions to train staff on the new ICD-10 billing codes. These facilities were relying on the statements by Health and Human Services representatives made as late as February 2014 that explained the October compliance date was firm. Questions remain about the implementation of ICD-10 at these facilities and whether these employees will need to be re-trained as the adjusted ICD-10 deadline nears.