Here we are in 2013, assuming you use the same type of calendar I use (if you do not use the same calendar, please skip over this paragraph). Watching the ball drop in Times Square a few days ago, a question came to mind:

When are people going to quit saying “two-thousand thirteen” and start saying “twenty thirteen” instead?

Think about it: Nobody ever said “one-thousand, nine-hundred eighty-seven” – it was just “nineteen eighty-seven.” I just don’t understand why everyone is clinging to “two-thousand thirteen” when it is so much more difficult to say.

Moving on…

New Year’s Eve is barely behind us, and I, for one, had a marvelous night. My only excess was that I ate a bit too much. But the next day – as I was considering the previous evening, 2013, the “fiscal cliff,” higher taxes, runaway expenditures, the budget ceiling and all the other government manipulations of our aggregate future – I must confess that my thoughts did turn to ICD-10, eventually. Specifically, I thought of the night of Sept. 30, 2014 (let’s call it “ICD-10 Eve”), along with the advent of ICD-10 the next day, and it occurred to me that a contrast between New Year’s Eve and this new holiday might be useful and slightly amusing. (I say “slightly” because things that hit too close to home tend to get progressively less humorous.)

When I was but a wee lad growing up in the Arkansas Ozarks, my least favorite English assignment was to “compare and contrast the following two books/stories.” The intent was to identify what they had in common and how they differed. I hated it! Either the two stories were clones of each other, so there really was no contrast, or they were so diametrically opposed that the assignment paper became an epic in its own right, looming before me like my own personal Mount Everest!

As we embark on the Good Ship 2013, I decided to “compare and contrast” New Year’s Eve (any New Year’s Eve) with ICD-10 Eve (the night before the ICD-10 yoke is placed on each and all of us). So, here we go!


Without too much thought, I came up with six similarities between our two holidays, but I encourage you to add to the list.

  1. The big day – New Year’s Day or “ICD-10 Becoming Law” – begins at midnight, rather than the next morning.
  2. Depending on our personal ethics and belief sets, we each presume/hope/pray/beg that the future will be better after both holidays0 (even though we know it probably won’t).
  3. No matter what the night costs, it certainly will be more than we can afford but not enough to do any real good.
  4. Irrespective of how well we plan the night, dumb luck may constitute our best hope for a good outcome.
  5. There really is no way to fully communicate our feelings about the pending “big day” to those who are not living this with us.
  6. Numbers drive everything! On New Year’s Day, it’s “How much did I spend? How much did I eat/drink? How many people did I offend?” On ICD-10 Day (Oct. 1, 2014) it all will be about “three digits to the left and four to the right of that little pseudo-decimal point.”


Now, to complete our exercise, let’s consider a half-dozen clear differences between New Year’s Eve and ICD-10 Eve.

  1. On New Year’s Eve, some people drink too much for all the wrong reasons; on ICD-10 Eve, they’ll drink too much for all the right reasons.
  2. On New Year’s Day we might sleep until noon; on Oct. 1, 2014, I don’t expect to sleep at all.
  3. If we make a scene on New Year’s Day – laughing hysterically at everyone around us – we had a really good night; if the same is true of Oct. 1, 2014, it just shows we simply work in healthcare.
  4. A good number of us wake up on New Year’s Day with nausea and an epic headache; after Oct. 1, 2014, we’ll wake up that way every day for the foreseeable future.
  5. While we take joy and comfort in being surrounded by friends on New Year’s Eve, we merely pity anyone sharing our work or personal lives with us on and after Oct. 1, 2014.
  6. And finally, most of us drive ourselves on New Year’s Eve; CMS will drive all of us after ICD-10 becomes a reality.

And there you have it: the good, the bad, and the, er, not particularly attractive.

I’ve no good notion of what life will be like after ICD-10 becomes the law of the land, but at least we have New Year’s Eve 2013 to practice once again!


About the Author

Billy K. Richburg, M.S., FHFMA is HFMA-Certified in Accounting and Finance, Patient Accounting and Managed Care. Bill graduated from the U. of Alaska, Anchorage and earned his M.S. in Health Care Administration from Trinity University, San Antonio, TX. Over a career spanning more than 40 years, Bill has held positions including CEO, COO, CFO, and CIO in hospitals ranging from 75 beds to over 300 beds, and in home health agencies, DME stores, and a home infusion company. Bill is a Board Member of the Lone Star Chapter, HFMA, and is Director of Government Programs for the Revenue Cycle Technologies business segment of MedAssets, Inc. His office is in Plano, Texas.

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