Expanded Medical Billing Code List Gets Extremely Specific

Starting next year, medical providers will have around 140,000 different billing codes to choose from, including many that are extremely specific.

Medical providers currently have about 18,000 different codes to choose from when billing insurers. It seems that this would be plenty to cover all eventualities, but apparently not. An updated list being introduced by the federal government will increase the number of codes to 140,000, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

The new system is known as ICD-10, short for International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, and is designed to allow for more specific accounting of diagnoses and procedures to help make billing more efficient and care more effective. "It's for accuracy of data and quality of care," Pat Brooks, senior technical adviser at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the Journal.

Among the codes that will soon be available to billers are those that specify that an injury occurred in an opera house, an art gallery, or a squash court—not to mention nine different areas in and around a mobile home. For those who can’t be bothered to look up from their smart phones, there are codes W22.02XA (“walked into lamppost, initial encounter”) and W22.02XD (“walked into lamppost, subsequent encounter”).

Some see the massive expansion in the number of codes as a burden, but others see it as an opportunity. An online medical billing code database, FindACode.com, for instance, has posted a number of videos illustrating some of the codes on the list, including V91.07XA, or “burn due to water-skis on fire, initial encounter.” The site’s tag-line: “Yeah, there’s a code for that…”


Walked Into a Lamppost? Hurt While Crocheting? Help Is on the Way [Wall Street Journal]

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