The health care system has just been updated with the new insurance codes. For some these are quite puzzling, if not bizarre, as they cover anything from ‘macaw’ bites and ‘injuries in prison swimming pools’ to ‘unspecified balloon injuries to occupant’ and ‘prolonged stay in a weightless environment.’
Doctors’ offices, nursing homes, hospitals and insurance companies have been taken unprepared by the crazy-sounding diagnostic codes, which entered full effect last week. The revision is the result of a process of more than a decade in the making and expands the codes from 14,000 to a sweeping 68,000.
The new insurance codes, part of the 10th version of the International Classification of Diseases, are meant to aid health care professionals better identify warning signs of epidemics like Ebola or potential flu pandemics. They are also meant to improve on legal frameworks and the accuracy of payments made to providers.
They also require much more detail in all health care encounters. For example, doctors are now obliged to document the exact location of a performed surgery (whether it was on the left or right side of the body) and also state if the patient has made repeated visits, thus determining if he/she is suffering from a serious health issue.
Howard Mell, an emergency department physician who works in Winston-Salem, NC, has said that:
“The only place it’s really annoying is when they want a lot of data about some types of trauma, like motor vehicle crashes. […] Was it a collision between a car and a truck, or a car and a car?”
Detractors have evidently claimed that this will lead to more bureaucracy and unnecessary long paper work which can even potentially delay much-needed treatment. They have also estimated that the cost needed for their proper implementation is too high for the benefits promised by the new changes.
The US government has delayed the new insurance codes largely because of opposition from the American Medical Association. The AMA still insists that the clinical data to be gained from the extra features is not worth the added burden on doctors and health care professionals.
Jeffrey Lancashire, spokesperson for the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, argues that the new additions are meant to offer consistency and uniformity within a category of injury. Critics however urge officials to reconsider their implementation as it can put an extra, unnecessary burden on the health care system and drive it into turmoil.
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