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Sorting out the truth in politics

Politifact: Medicare does have nine codes for turkey contacts

The statement

Says new Medicare billing guidelines "have nine codes for (injuries by) turkeys."

U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, on Fox Business Network

The ruling

Doctors' offices, already burdened by federal billing bureaucracy, will soon find themselves pecked to death by new rules, Texas congressman Ted Poe says.

New diagnosis codes required for reimbursement are so specific, he told Fox Business Network host John Stossel, there are a set of them just for injuries caused by turkeys.

"Whether you run into a turkey or the turkey runs into you, you're pecked by a turkey or you're bitten by a turkey, there's a difference between being pecked and being bitten," he said in an interview last week. "So they have nine codes for turkeys."

Poe, a fifth-term Republican who's a member of the Tea Party Caucus, argues doctors shouldn't have to face the expense of complying with new rules or penalties for screwing up.

"Do they need to go through this much detail to get information to the federal government? I don't think they do," he said.

We had to know: Do new Medicare billing guidelines include "nine codes for turkeys"?

As Poe suggested, the new system does have far more diagnosis codes than the version developed in the 1970s — 68,000 instead of 13,000.

The codes, which will be required for Medicare claims by October 2014, allow doctors to specify not just injuries from turkeys, but from parrots, macaws, ducks and geese.

There's a different code for being "struck" vs. "pecked" or suffering from "other contact"— with specification for the first time, an unlucky repeat or even worse, "sequela." (That would be some "negative afteraffect" resulting from your turkey encounter.)

Poe's office pointed us to this:

W61.4 Contact with turkey

W61.42 Struck by turkey

• W61.42XA initial encounter

• W61.42XD subsequent encounter

• W61.42XS sequela

W61.43 Pecked by turkey

• W61.43XA initial encounter

• W61.43XD subsequent encounter

• W61.43XS sequela

W61.49 Other contact with turkey

• W61.49XA initial encounter

• W61.49XD subsequent encounter

• W61.49XS sequela

If you've seen TV ads about the need to prepare for a bright new career in medical billing and coding — this is part of the reason why.

We rate this claim True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at

Politifact: Medicare does have nine codes for turkey contacts 04/30/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 9:02pm]
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