Despite Threats, Senate Appropriations Bill Currently Remains Free of ICD-10 Delay Amendment

The Senate Appropriations Committee opted not to adopt amendments aimed at slowing down full implementation of ICD-10-CM/PCS in a markup session of an appropriations bill Thursday morning.

AHIMA anticipated the bill as a vehicle for a possible ICD-10 delay, or similar legislation, and learned Thursday morning that Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) drafted three amendments to the $153.2 billion FY2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill, which, in part, funds the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Cassidy, a freshman senator and physician, opposed ICD-10 when he was a member of the House and drafted three ICD-10-related amendments to the Labor-HHS. The first amendment asked for a grace period, or “safe harbor” period that would exempt providers from penalties from coding errors for two years post-ICD-10 implementation. The second amendment sought a hardship exemption “from the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 code sets for practices that would be harmed by the change.” The hardship exemption, as it has been proposed in the past, calls for a dual coding period. In the third and final amendment Cassidy proposed a delay in the implementation of ICD-10 from 2015 until 2016. AHIMA is staunchly against all three of these proposals and has advocated against similar measures in the past.

During the full committee meeting Thursday morning, Cassidy introduced and then withdrew the hardship exemption amendment, noting that it needs to be “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), to see how much it would cost. Under the Budget Control Act, bills and amendments that add to the federal deficit can’t be signed into law without offsets. The CBO is the entity that decides whether legislation adds or subtracts from the deficit.

The Senate committee then voted to advance the FY2016 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill—without including any language that would affect ICD-10 implementation—to the Senate floor for a vote. Once the bill advances to the floor, it’s still possible that Cassidy or his colleagues in the Senate could propose further amendments with ICD-10 language, so AHIMA is urging its members to be vigilant about contacting their legislators about ICD-10.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of Thursday’s hearing.

Members can speak up to their Congressional representatives through AHIMA’s advocacy assistant at http://capwiz.com/ahima/home/.

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