For the time-challenged: ICD-10 FY 2021 update summary

June 15th, 2020 / By Rhonda Butler

Time is seriously weird stuff. 2020 so far has had that dream/nightmare quality that is somehow fast and slow at the same time. My memory of February, only four months ago, feels like “just yesterday” and “ancient history” at the same time. February was before we were sheltering in place, before the pandemic had changed daily life for most people on this planet. After that, each day seemed both too long to endure and too brief to absorb everything that was going on. We thought our biggest challenge was adjusting to “the new normal.”

Then, George Floyd was murdered…and words fail. It seems we needed to be reminded again—yet again—that “normal,” old and new, is profoundly unjust for many fellow human beings. Please let it be the last reminder we need, that the old normal is not acceptable.

Meanwhile, we are still trying to function in daily life—do our jobs, take care of our families and our neighbors, participate as citizens in our democracy—in the context of a world that is no longer the one we thought we knew. It’s disorienting, to say the least. But we do the best we can, because the past six months has taught us (I hope) that complacency, literally, kills.

October is four months from now. This year, it is impossible to predict how time will pass for us this summer—fast, slow, or fast-slow-surreal. To misuse a term from physics—October is beyond the event horizon. But we do know that on October 1, the FY 2021 changes specified in the ICD-10-CM/PCS updates and the IPPS final rule will go into effect.

Here is where we are in the timeline of ICD-10 related events for this summer, culminating in the October 1 implementation of regulatory policy and ICD-10-CM/PCS changes for the 2021 fiscal year:

  • May 11—The IPPS proposed rule was posted on the CMS website. The comment period ends July 12.
  • May 28—CMS posted the final content for the ICD-10 procedure codes FY 2021 update—ICD-10-PCS code tables, index, definitions, conversion table and official guidelines. These changes were proposed at the March C&M meeting and the comment period is passed. You can download the content files here.
  • As of this writing (Thursday June 11) CDC had not yet posted the FY 2021 release of ICD-10-CM. The files are typically posted the first week in June and are expected any day. Once posted, you can find the ICD-10-CM FY 2021 files here. Once CDC releases the files, CMS also posts them for the public’s convenience, and you can navigate to them from the page in the PCS update link above.
  • The IPPS final rule is typically posted the first half of August, and contains the final regulatory changes for FY 2021, along with the tables containing all new, revised and deleted ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS codes for October 1. When it is posted, an FY 2021 Final Rule page will be added to the sidebar menu here.

I hope you found this timeline of ICD-10 related milestones useful, even reassuring. It’s also encouraging to know that federal agencies and regulatory processes are still getting through the essential work required for each health care fiscal year, along with all the extra pandemic-associated work. When it comes to COVID-19 related healthcare policy, it is easy to appreciate the fact that the people who make policy decisions are not the ones who implement them.

Rhonda Butler is a clinical research manager with 3M Health Information Systems.

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