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Washington Debrief: More Associations Urge Meaningful Use Extension, Payment Adjustments

August 27, 2013
by Jeff Smith, Director of Public Policy at CHIME
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Jeff Smith, Director of Public Policy at CHIME

Provider Associations Continue Focus on Meaningful Use ‘Extension,’ Payment Adjustments

Last week, yet another provider organization urged HHS officials to “implement an indefinite moratorium on penalties” for physicians as long as they complete Stage 1 of Meaningful Use.  In a letter to Secretary Sebelius, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) also joined CHIME, AAFP, HIMSS and others in requesting an extension to Meaningful Use timelines in 2014.  “Currently, there are more than 2,200 products and almost 1,400 ‘complete EHRs’ certified under the 2011 criteria for ambulatory EPs,” MGMA officials wrote.  “As of this writing, there are only 75 products and 21 complete EHRs certified for the Stage 2 (2014) criteria.  This lack of vendor readiness has significant implications for EPs.  Without the appropriate software upgrades and timely vendor support, EPs will be unable to meet the Stage 2 requirements and thus will be unfairly penalized starting in 2015.”

Given this reality, MGMA asked HHS to extend the reporting period for Stage 2 incentives.  “This extension should be a minimum of one year, while continuing the existing policy of requiring EPs to report for a 90-day period.  This extra year would provide additional time for vendors to upgrade their software, certify for the Stage 2 criteria, and install the products.”

CMS eHealth Provider Webinar to Learn How Eligible Hospitals can Prepare for Stage 2

Eligible hospitals are encouraged to join the CMS eHealth provider webinar held on Tuesday, August 27th from 12:00 - 1:30 p.m. ET. The webinar aims to help eligible hospitals prepare for Stage 2 of the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs. CMS experts will present and answer questions on Stage 2 criteria, 2014 clinical quality measures, and key deadlines.  Register now to secure your spot for this eHealth Provider Webinar.  Once registration is complete, you will receive a follow-up email with step-by-step instructions on how to log-in to the webinar.  CMS will be holding these eHealth webinars to educate the health care community about the eHealth programs and resources available. Listserv messages will be sent prior to each webinar with registration information. Stay tuned for information about our next webinar topic.  If you'd like to view past webinars, the PowerPoint presentations and recordings can now be accessed on the Resources page of the eHealth website.

New AHRQ Chief Announced

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) will have a new director, Secretary Sebelius announced last week.  Richard Kronick, HHS' deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, will succeed Dr. Carolyn Clancy who has been at AHRQ since 2003.  “AHRQ has important work ahead,” Sebelius said in a statement, “and I look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Kronick in this new role.”  The Agency has come under pressure from House Republicans during recent budget cycles.  In the last House budget passed, AHRQ’s entire budget was gutted to make room for broader spending cuts.  Neither the Senate nor the White House has indicated any inclination to eliminate AHRQ, however.

CHIME Comments on FDASIA Workgroup Recommendations, Anticipates Next Steps

In response to a Bipartisan Policy Center blog on the release of federal recommendations on a risk-based regulatory framework for health IT, CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell commended the FDASIA Workgroup for its work.  “The recommendations rendered by the Workgroup illustrate the challenges surrounding patient safety and health IT,” he wrote.  “For example, when examining the root cause of a patient safety event, it can be extremely difficult to determine whether a system failure or a human failure is ultimately responsible.”  Branzell also said the FDASIA Workgroup wisely repeated a mantra echoed in BPC’s framework, calling for “shared responsibility” between developers, providers, implementers and regulators as a guiding principle in regulating health IT.  “But [the Workgroup’s] recommendations also illustrate the need for coordinated action across HHS, the broader administration and Congress.  Because the issue of patient safety spans several jurisdictions, especially in an increasingly mobile world, it is important that the Office of the National Coordinator and the Food and Drug Administration work in tandem with the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission in defining a proper tact towards risk-based regulation.”