IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Struck by a Turtle? There's a Code for That

Medical providers have to use this new system of red tape to get reimbursed by health insurance and it's unintentionally amusing.
Diving turtle at TPC Sawgrass.
Diving turtle at TPC Sawgrass.NBC Sports

Walk into a lamppost? There’s a special code for that. Did someone bite you by accident? There’s a code for that, too. There’s one code if you’re being fitted for an artificial leg on the right side and another code if it’s on the left.

It’s all in the new ICD-10, the International Classification of Diseases coding system that went live on Thursday.

Medical providers have to use this new system of red tape to get reimbursed by health insurance and it’s been updated to match international standards and to help health researchers so it’s very detailed. Extremely detailed, in fact.

There’s one code for if you get crushed by an alligator. There’s another code for if you get crushed by a crocodile. There’s one for if you are pecked by a chicken and one for when a killer whale smacks into you.

There used to be about 14,000 codes. Now there are 68,000.

It’s perfect for Twitter. @EveryICD10 is tweeting out every code.

“The U.S. has been using ICD-9-CM since 1979, and it is not sufficiently robust to serve the health care needs of the future,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains.

“The content is no longer clinically accurate and has limited data about patients’ medical conditions and hospital inpatient procedures, the number of available codes is limited, and the coding structure is too restrictive.”

The new system is not restrictive at all. Here are some of the codes it offers:

W59.22XA Struck by a turtle

W56.42XS Struck by a shark

W55.12XD Struck by horse

W53.81XA Bitten by other rodent

W55.49XS Other contact with pig

V90.37XD Drowning and submersion due to falling or jumping from crushed water-skis

X71.3XXD Intentional self-harm by drowning and submersion in natural water

“The change to ICD-10 allows you to capture more details about the health status of your patients and sets the stage for improved patient care and public health surveillance across our country. ICD-10 will help move the nation’s health care system to better, smarter care,” Sean Cavanaugh, director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, writes on the CMS blog. CMS oversees public health insurance plans and will be Ground Zero for ICD-10 disasters management.

CMS says it’ll give providers a break. It will not deny reimbursement so long as the code used is close to the right one.

And if you hurt yourself as you slap yourself on the forehead? There’s a code for that, too: X83.8XXA Intentional self-harm by other specified means.