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Washington Debrief: House Approves Bill to Exempt Ambulatory Surgical Centers from MU

March 2, 2015
by Jeff Smith, Vice President of Public Policy at CHIME
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CMS Extends EHR Attestation Deadline for Medicare Eligible Professionals

Key Takeaway: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced an extension of the attestation deadline for eligible professionals (EPs) for the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program 2014 reporting year.  Participants now have until March 20, 2015 at 11:59 pm ET to attest for the for the 2014 program year. The previous deadline was February 28.

Why it Matters: This is the second such extension that CMS has afforded participants in the meaningful use program.  It is another example of CMS being flexible where regulation allows.  Taken in combination with recent announcements regarding a shortened reporting period for 2015, healthcare IT executives can add this to the list of evidence suggesting that policymakers are more clearly seeing the situation on the ground and demonstrating discretion.

The announcement made last week, giving eligible providers (EPs) an extra 20 days to attest to MU in program year 2014 will also allow EPs who have not already used their one-time option to ‘switch’ between programs (from Medicare to Medicaid, or vice versa) to do so by the same March 20 deadline. Additionally, the EHR reporting option for PQRS has been extended until March 20, 2015. CHIME President and CEO Russell P. Branzell, CHCIO, FCHIME said of the announcement, “CHIME appreciates CMS' ongoing willingness to help providers through the difficult 2014 program year, and we look forward to forthcoming proposed rules to address ongoing challenges in 2015 and beyond.” CHIME members with questions or thoughts should click here to join the discussion on myCHIME.

Legislation & Politics

House Committee Approves Bill to Exempt Ambulatory Surgical Centers from MU

Key Takeaway: Last week, the House Committee on Ways and Means approved a bill to exempt patient encounters that take place in ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) from counting toward meaningful use requirements.

Why It Matters:  There is currently no requirement that ambulatory surgery centers use electronic health records (EHRs) and no certification program has been authored by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) specifically for these surgery centers. The legislation approved by the Ways and Means Committee last Thursday, H.R. 887 or the 'Electronic Health Fairness Act of 2015' sponsored by Congresswoman Diane Black, would exempt encounters in ambulatory surgical centers from meaningful use until ONC develops standards for EHR certification in such care settings.

The Committee also approved a separate bill to make a number of changes designed to prevent fraud in Medicare, the Protecting the Integrity of Medicare Act of 2015 (H.R. 1021) sponsored by Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX-03). The legislation would remove Social Security numbers from Medicare beneficiary cards and requests the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to “consider” Medicare smart card technology, “including an embedded and secure integrated circuit chip” in cards, if HHS deemed this cost-effective and technologically viable. Further, the legislation would allow beneficiaries to receive summary of care notices electronically, an idea that has gotten bipartisan support recently in the House and Senate.

Cyber Security Conversations Continue on Capitol Hill

Key Takeaway: Information sharing and liability protections remain the two foundational issues Congressional leaders are considering in cyber security preparedness legislation.

Why it Matters: The Obama Administration unveiled its proposal to enhance the nation’s preparedness for cyber threats, including the signing of an executive order to promote more information sharing about cyber threats - both within the private sector and between the government and private sector.

Legislative efforts are underway in the Senate as Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced S.286 to establish mechanisms for enabling cybersecurity threat indicator sharing between private and government entities, closely resembling the Obama Administration’s proposal. Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee is circulating a new version of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) for stakeholder review.

The House Committee on Homeland Security hosted a hearing this week to take a closer look at the President’s information sharing proposal. In his opening remarks, Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) reminded the Committee about the continued intrusions on government information from foreign adversaries as well as threat to our personal health information, as seen in the breach of an estimated 78 million during the Anthem breach, citing the diversity and complexity of cyber threats. Stakeholders expect legislation addressing information sharing and increased liability protect for entities that voluntarily share cyber threat indicators to emerge from the Homeland Security Committee in coming months.

Edited by Gabriel Perna for style purposes