Washington - At a hearing before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, Joseph Smith, senior vice president and chief information officer of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, urged Congress to adopt a realistic timetable for a major shift in medical coding, moving systems from ICD-9 to ICD-10. Smith testified at the hearing, which focused on health care information technology, on behalf of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).The bill Smith referenced, HR 4157, the Health Information Technology Promotion Act of 2005, calls for the major conversion of diagnostic and procedural codes that providers and insurers must use by 2009. Systems would change from ICD-9 diagnosis codes, which include 13,000 codes, to ICD-10, which includes over 120,000 possible codes.

"While supporting much of HR 4157, we strongly urge the committee to allow three additional years to switch to ICD-10," says Smith. "More time is critical because extensive work is required before providers and payers can implement this complete coding overhaul."

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