Fox hired for health

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services HIPAA Administrative Simplification – Identifiers

Officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded Fox Systems a $24 million contract last month to help support development of a standard unique health identifier for healthcare providers to help with electronic data exchange and other things.

Fox Systems, a healthcare consulting firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz., will process applications from healthcare providers and assign them new unique identification numbers as mandated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. The company will also operate a help desk.

The company will be known as the "enumerator" and will manage the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System, a computerized system that will be used to uniquely identify healthcare providers, assign them National Provider Identifiers (NPIs), update their information, and disseminate data to the industry, according to the request for proposals that was issued last November.

CMS has not yet notified healthcare providers when it will accept applications, but it is expected to be sometime in late May. Assigning NPIs -- which are unique 10-digit numbers that do not expire -- will begin later this year and is expected to simplify administrative procedures.

Healthcare providers must begin using their NPI on standard transactions no later than May 23, 2007 and any old identifying numbers they have used, such as a Blue Cross and Blue Shield number or a Medicaid number will not be permitted. Smaller health plans have until May 23, 2008 to comply.

The NPI standard is the latest administrative simplification feature to be adopted by the Health and Human Services Department. Other standards for electronic transactions and code sets, employer identifiers, and privacy and security for protecting health information have already been adopted.

HIPAA is designed to toughen privacy procedures involving patient health and medical information, improve security of networks handing sensitive data, and simplify administrative codes and standards for electronic data exchange, among other things.

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