HHS Announces Proposed Rule to Simpify the Administrative Process for Health Care Providers

April 10, 2012

Yesterday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a proposed rule that would simplify the administrative processes for health care providers by establishing a unique health plan identifier (HPID) under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). HHS estimates that the HPID would save the entire health care industry up to $4.6 billion over the next ten years.

Currently, multiple identifiers are used to identify health plans in standard transactions. These identifiers differ in length and format, which has created frustration among health care providers. Due to the current lack of a standard identifier, health care providers are faced with onerous burdens that lead to an inefficient use of their time. HHS has highlighted several of the problems associated with the lack of a standard identifier, which include: misrouting of transactions, rejected transactions due to insurance identification errors, and difficulty determining patient eligibility.

The proposed rule has been designed to eliminate the above mentioned problems by simplifying the administrative process for providers. The rule proposes that health plans have a unique identifier of a standard length and format in order to increase standardization within the HIPAA standard transactions. The standardization will enhance the automation and simplification in the provider's administrative process. HHS believes that these enhancements will enable providers to avoid greater administrative costs by decreasing the amount of time providers will need to spend interacting with health plans, as well as decrease unnecessary material costs because the automated process will shift the currently-used manual transactions to an electronic transaction.

In addition to establishing a unique HPID, the proposed rule also adopts the use of an "other provider" identifier (OEID) for entities that are not health plans, health care providers, or individuals, but still need to be identified in HIPAA standard transactions. Finally, the proposed rule would also delay the required compliance date in which covered entities must comply with the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition (ICD-10), which are the new codes used to classify diseases. The compliance date for ICD-10, originally set for October 1, 2013, will be pushed back to October 1, 2014.

The recently announced proposed rule is the third in a series of rules that Section 1104 of the Affordable Care Act requires HHS to issue over a five year span that are designed to simplify health care administrative transactions. If you have any questions regarding the newly proposed rule, or have any other compliance questions, please contact an experienced health law attorney at Wachler & Associates at 248-544-0888.