Proposed medical billing classification change sparks controversy

By Carrie Johnson Weimar O'Brien • Published: May 15th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

No one would blame you if you thought I-C-D 10 was some type of missile. Or perhaps a dye used in children’s cereal. In fact, I-C-D 10 is the coding system used to differentiate between types of diseases … and it has generated a fair amount of controversy in the United States.

I-C-D 10 stands for International Classification of Disease, 10th revision. It is composed of thousands of different codes, which together make up the billing system used for different types of treatment. For example, if you have an insect bite on your right eyelid, the code is S-O-O.261. If it’s on your left eyelid, it’s S-O-O.262. I-C-D 10 was created by the World Health Organization in 1993 to replace I-C-D nine, now considered very out of date.

Almost every other country has switched to I-C-D 10 — except the United States, which still uses I-C-D nine. The Department of Health and Human Services set a deadline of October 2013 for the switch to I-C-D 10, but the move worries many in the medical profession. In fact, the American Medical Association lobbied Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to change the deadline. A-M-A leaders said it was too expensive and would create extreme administrative burdens at a time when doctors are trying to implement electronic records and comply with other mandates. Also, they said it didn’t fit with President Barack Obama’s directive to remove unnecessary bureaucracy from health care. Sebelius relented and a new deadline has yet to be set.

Chances are it won’t have much of an effect on you as a patient. But there are reasons why many in the medical community are eager for the switch. First, I-C-D nine has no more room to grow. Secondly, because the codes in I-C-D 10 are more comprehensive, it may allow for better analysis of disease patterns. Lastly, it could help streamline billing, which could ultimately save us all some money.