DHS To Host Town Halls About New Coding System

Jul 7, 2015

The Department of Human Services begins a series of town halls across Arkansas Tuesday about an upcoming change in the coding system used by all medical providers.

The federal government is requiring all providers, including 38,000 Medicaid providers in Arkansas, to switch from the ICD-9 system to ICD-10 on Oct. 1. Those who submit bills using ICD-9 after Sept. 30 will have their claims rejected, Tami Harlan, deputy director of the state’s Medicaid program, told Talk Business & Politics recently.

The 17 planned town halls will allow Medicaid officials to explain how ICD-10 differs from ICD-9. Providers and their staffs will be given information on how to prepare for the switch.

The first town halls will be at noon July 7 in the Camden Public Library and at 7 p.m. in Hope’s Wadley Regional Medical Center. Town halls also will be held this week in Jonesboro and West Memphis on July 8 and in Searcy on July 9. For a full schedule, click here.

“ICD” stands for International Classification of Diseases. Its earliest version was adopted by the World Health Organization in 1893, and it has been updated periodically since. ICD-9, which has been in use in the United States since 1979, categorizes all medical ailments and procedures into 13,000 codes. The ICD-10 system, which was endorsed by the World Health Organization in 1990, categorizes those procedures into 68,000 far more specific codes that detail the exact ailment (for example, which arm was broken) and its cause.

David Wroten, executive vice president of the Arkansas Medical Society, said in June that of the 95 clinics that had responded to a survey, only 16% said they were ready to implement ICD-10, and almost 30% did not believe they would be ready in October. About 60% said they had provided training for coding staff, while about 40% had trained clinical staff. He said some were waiting on software vendors while others were delaying the switch because vendors were charging excessively high rates.

Wroten said providers may be assuming that the switch to ICD-10, already delayed twice from its initial planned start in 2008, will be delayed again. He said the Arkansas Medical Society hopes Congress will create a grace period of one to two years where providers would not be penalized if they haven’t made the switch.

Harlan said a delay is not likely.