A closer look at the possible downsides of an ICD-10 ‘grace period’

According to some, an extended "safe harbor" period would worsen  ICD-10 adoption..

While multiple arguments for a transition period between the ICD-10 adoption deadline of October 1 and expected compliance have been made, there has also been some pushback against such an initiative. The language used to discuss a "grace period" usually suggests a positive outcome for struggling providers, but the Coalition for ICD-10 has taken a firm stance against such policies for numerous reasons.

The Coalition addressed the possible issues surrounding grace period measures in an article entitled "Safe Harbor: Unnecessary with Dangerous Consequences." According to them, the "safe harbor" approach to ICD-10 preparation, in which physicians aren't immediately penalized for code-related errors, leaves the potential for fraud, as the proposed measures wouldn't distinguish between intentional or accidental discrepancies. The need for safe harbor also operates off of the false assumption that the new coding system will encumber physicians.

Ultimately, the organization concludes, a grace period complicate the already-extended ICD-10 implementation process, which was originally only supposed to take three years.

"As long as physicians aren't expected to document and code as specifically as possible, many of them will continue to delay doing so," the authors of the post write. "It can be predicted with virtual certainty that at the end of the safe harbor, there will be new demands for a reprieve from ICD-10 because there hasn't been enough time to prepare."

Recently, Alabama representative Gary Palmer introduced H.R. 2652, which would institute an ICD-10 grace period of two years. AHIMA similarly opposed that measure, saying that it would mandate "no official repercussions for inaccurate coding."

By working with regulatory compliance consulting specialists, a practice will have the resources to assess their current ICD-10 progress and guide an organization to better use through healthcare coding and consulting services.

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