Bitten By a Macaw? New Medical Codes Can Help Bill Insurance Companies For the Bite

Health care providers must learn some funky new medical billing terms, as the clunky government-mandated “ICD-10” codes used to describe diseases and hospital procedures in the get-paid-by-the-insurance-company process  formally launched on Thursday.

This is the tenth revision of the International Classification of Diseases, known as “ICD-10.” After two years of delays, medical care providers have to be ready for the conversion to learn five times as many new codes to bill the government and private insurers.

Before, health care providers could input "broken arm" into the system, in order for the insurance companies to understand the injury, and pay for it. Now, the new codes allow for much more intricate issues. Where was the arm broken? And where? A playground? A prison?

Two examples: If you want your health insurance to pay for "prolonged exposure in a deep freeze unit or refrigerator," providers must submit the code W93.2XXD. Bitten by a macaw? There's a code for that, too: W.61.11. (Of course.)

And if you've got a headache from deciphering all 68,000 new codes, up from 14,000, then you should learn the new billable coding number of R-51.

A twitter handle, @EveryICD10, also emerged, which promised to tweet "every billable ICD-10 code (not necessarily in order) until we're done.

According to the American Medical Association, the codes are intended to also reduce fraud and identify epidemics. And the AMA aim is to focus on "steps to ease the transition and mitigate potential disruption in claims processing, physicians’ workflow and patients’ access to care."

But we're not so sure. Critics say having 68,000 codes could actually result in billing mistakes and provide a thick layer of extra red tape.

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