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D.C. Report:ONC to Post Weekly Certification List, Physician Payment Bill Passed

June 28, 2010
by Sharon Canner
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Sharon Canner, Sr. Director of Advocacy Programs, CHIME

Temporary Program and Meaningful Use Criteria. The Final ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology) Rule establishing the temporary certification program published in the Federal Register on June 24 included expected as well as some unexpected guidance on certifying products. Certification expiration will not necessarily be tied to Stage I Meaningful Use criteria as ONC is expected to release new certification criteria in 2013-2014. As a result, providers can anticipate product re-certification and probably new releases and upgrades. Some news on new vocabulary code sets is also included. New code sets cannot be required for certification until formally adopted through an ONC rule.

To inform CIOs about certified products, ONC will post a weekly list (Certified HIT Products List/CHPL) of all certified EHR and EHR modules with information on quality measures tested and details on versions and modules/products that were included in bundles or complete EHRs. This information will enable CIOs to compare vendor announcements with the government website.

The rule also addresses certification for the Stark and the Anti-Kickback Exception that is currently performed by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT), which lost its “recognition status” for Stark and the Anti-Kickback Exception on June 24 (effective date of the final rule). However, the lost recognition status does not impact certifications made while CCHIT was recognized.

This Temporary Rule is the first in a series of final rules expected this summer from ONC and CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services). Yet to come are final rules on standards and criteria for certification (ONC) and meaningful use (CMS), the latter rumored for release by the end of next week and a likely candidate for the “beach reading list.”

CHIME is pleased to see acceptance of many points raised in our response to the Notice of Proposed Rule-Making (NPRM) for the Temporary Program. While not all recommendations were accepted, our voice was heard in numerous areas. As CIOs in the pivotal position of implementing EHRs for meaningful use, we are committed to working with our industry partners toward improved patient care through health IT solutions. For a summary, click here. To come, “Key Points for CIOs,” a document highlighting the Final Temporary Program Rule.

Six-Month Physician Payment Bill Passed. By a vote of 417-1, the House on Thursday approved a stand-alone measure ( HR 3962) putting off a scheduled 21 percent cut in Medicare physician fees. Last week, the Senate passed this $6.5 billion six-month stand-alone bill as a result of a compromise between Senate Democrats and Republicans after Democrats failed to turn back a GOP-led filibuster holding up a vote on a broader bill. The latter “Tax Extenders” bill included such items as extension of the temporary increase in Medicaid's Federal Medical Assistance Percentage and extended unemployment benefits that were part of an Obama Administration stimulus effort also aimed at preventing layoffs among state workers. House Democratic leaders expressed disappointment over being forced to approve the Senate's six-month compromise, rather than the longer-term 19-month physician proposal included in the extenders bill approved by the House on May 28. The physician payment measure is retroactive to June 1.

CMS Website Provides Up-to-Date Details on New Program. Last week, CMS officially launched a new website dedicated to the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program. The website includes information on upcoming events, eligibility, registration, certification, meaningful use, Medicare and Medicaid eligible professionals, hospitals, Medicare Advantage, and states. Also included are downloads and related links.

HIT Policy and Standards Committee Meetings. Through these FACA (Federal Advisory Committee Act) committees, ONC is continuing its focus on current initiatives as well as laying the groundwork for the months and Stages ahead. For HIT Policy Committee agenda (NHIN, health disparities, Temporary Certification Rule, federal program enrollment, etc.) and materials, click here.