ST. LOUIS – The medical coding system used by the government, insurance companies, medical clinics and health care providers now includes two codes specifically for natural family planning.
Behind the push for the new codes was the American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals, a national organization that promotes the use of the Creighton Model FertilityCare System, which is used for natural family planning and women’s health and infertility issues while upholding Catholic teaching.
Diane Daly, director of the Office of Natural Family Planning for the St. Louis Archdiocese and a member of the academy, headed the committee that worked several years for the new codes.
On Oct. 1, the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) published the following codes for natural family planning:
– V25.04: Counseling and instruction in natural family planning to avoid pregnancy.
– V26.41: Procreative counseling and advice using natural family planning.
“We’re excited because this is the first time in history that codes have recognized (natural family planning) as a legitimate service that can be reimbursed on its own,” Daly said in an interview with the St. Louis Review, archdiocesan newspaper.
Guidelines for reporting and coding with the ICD-9-CM are made by two federal government agencies – the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Guidelines also are approved by the two agencies, the American Hospital Association and the American Health Information Management Association.
Daly said her committee began its work in 2004 to propose specific codes for natural family planning in the ICD-9-CM coding system. After several years of research and preparation, Drs. Leslie Chorun and Joseph Stanford of the academy presented a proposal in March 2006 in Baltimore to the Coordination and Maintenance Committee. The committee is made up of representatives from the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Chorun said more than 200 people from across the United States and several other countries wrote in support of the proposal during a public comment period.
“In December 2006, we found out that they were leaning toward” approving the proposal, according to Daly. “Then we learned through their Web site that they were going to publish the codes in October 2007.”
Daly explained the codes also have opened a door for Catholic dioceses around the country who already do not cover natural family planning in their insurance plans for diocesan employees.
In St. Louis, for example, the Archdiocesan Benefits Council voted unanimously to offer 100 percent coverage for natural family planning instruction for all archdiocesan employees under the UnitedHealthcare insurance plan. Previously, employees under that plan were assessed a $20 co-pay.
Archdiocesan employees under the Mercy Health Plan have received 100 percent coverage for natural family planning since the plan was first implemented in the archdiocese in 2003.
Coverage is included for all four church-recognized methods of natural family planning: Creighton Model, Couple to Couple League, Billings Ovulation Method and Marquette Model.
In September Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, sent a letter to his fellow bishops asking them to consider coverage of natural family planning in their diocesan health insurance policies in light of the new codes.
“The publishing of the ICD-9-CM codes for natural family planning means that health insurance companies can easily cover education classes in the methods of natural family planning,” Cardinal Rigali wrote.
Daly noted that academy’s committee conducted a sample survey earlier this year and found that eight U.S. dioceses were offering some kind of insurance coverage of natural family planning for its employees. In addition to St. Louis, they were the dioceses of Wichita, Kan.; Lincoln, Neb.; Duluth, Minn.; Columbus, Ohio; LaCrosse, Wis.; St. Cloud, Minn.; and Crookston, Minn.
Daly said the new codes will provide more accurate statistics on who is using natural family planning.
The National Center for Health Statistics, she said, “will look at these codes when they are making determinations about how many people use natural family planning. It helps us statistically to make reports more accurate.”