News and Commentary

BCBSA Asks HHS To Slow Down

At least one private insurer is telling the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that it is going too fast when it comes to implementing the changes proposed for ICD-10, the coding system used to identify diagnosis and treatment of millions of patients. The Blue Cross & Blue Shield Association says the proposed time frame for insurers and providers to implement the massive changes is unworkable.

“Rushing the process will result in a major meltdown in the health care industry including — unavoidably — inaccurate and delayed payments to providers and consumers, an inability to detect fraud and abuse, and unnecessarily higher total costs of implementation because of the accelerated time line,” says Scott P. Serota, president and CEO of the association.

Last month, HHS plotted a time line for insurers, physicians, and hospitals participating in federal health programs to adopt a new set of codes by Oct. 1, 2011. The new codes will increase the number of codes in use for the past 27 years (24,000) to 150,000. HHS, insurers, and providers acknowledge that there is a need to revamp the system — as health care moves forward in the digital age it will require fundamental changes in how information is stored and transferred. BCBSA recommends that the agency adopt the timeline proposed by the National Committee for Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS), which advises HHS on HIPAA issues.