Earlier this week, President Obama signed the bill known as the "doc fix," a one-year patch which adjusted Medicare reimbursements to prevent doctors suffering a 24% pay cut. While the doc fix was the primary focus of the bill, this legislation also caused a one-year delay of a contentious, but little-known, change in Medicare billing codes.
Why should I care?
Good question. The phase "billing codes" sounds downright boring. But the switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10 in Medicare creates the billing and coding infrastructure for the patient-centered health model that may be the future of American health care. These codes' greater specificity (there are 3,000-4,000 ICD-9 procedure codes, compared to 87,000 in ICD-10) will allow providers to more easily share information, encouraging collaboration and better patient health outcomes.
If that's not enough to convince you, consider this: ICD-10 adoption will not be optional. Physicians who do not change billing codes will be penalized by Medicare, and potentially by private insurers. This is intended to be a universal change in how American health care does business -- a true mega-trend. And three companies -- Athenahealth (NASDAQ: ATHN ) , Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN ) , and McKesson (NYSE: MCK ) -- are providing the technological know-how to hospitals and physicians as they work to make the switch to ICD-10. This one-year delay has got their management teams furious -- they've been preparing for the billing change by selling their products and expertise to health care providers -- and now they have to wait another year.
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