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Washington Debrief: MU Attestation Deadline Extended; HIT Bill Clears First Hurdle

February 15, 2016
by Leslie Kriegstein, Interim Vice President of Public Policy, CHIME
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Congressional Affairs

Health IT Bill Clears Hurdle, Advances through Senate Committee

Key Takeaway: Last week the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously approved a bill that seeks to improve the usability and interoperability of electronic health records (EHRs).

Why It Matters: The Improving Health Information Technology Act (S.2511), introduced by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) seeks to reduce the reporting requirements through EHRs and directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine opportunities to improve how patients are linked to their healthcare data.

Cosponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the bill creates a rating system for EHRs, gives the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) resources to combat information blocking and seeks to enhance patient to access their health data.

CHIME submitted comments on the draft legislation last month. The EHR-focused legislation is one of the many bills that are expected to comprise the Senate's version of the 21st Century Cures Act (HR 6), a comprehensive biomedical innovation proposal that passed the House last July.

Federal Affairs:

MU Attestation Deadline Extended to March 11

Key Takeaway: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) extended the attestation deadline for the 2015 Meaningful Use program year from February 29 to March 11.

Why It Matters: The attestation deadline extension will allow providers additional time to attest, and with the announcement earlier last week of the PQRS submission deadline also being extended until March 11 creates alignment for providers.

Eligible professionals (EPs), eligible hospitals (EHs), and critical access hospitals (CAHs) participating in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program can attest through the CMS Registration and Attestation System. Providers participating in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program should refer to their respective states for attestation information and deadlines.

President Request Additional Health IT Funding for FY17, Would Extend MU to Behavioral Health Community

Key Takeaway: The Administration’s proposed FY 2017 budget would increase funding for Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), in addition to an extra $1.7 billion to expand the Meaningful Use program to include behavioral health providers in FY18.

Why It Matters: The Obama Administration’s final budget included funding for a number of initiatives to further work in precision medicine and to achieve the “moon shot” of curing cancer, with health IT being a benefactor.

ONC’s budget proposal was $82 million, a $22 million jump from the estimated FY 2016 level.

According to the justification, the proposed funding would support ONC’s efforts to upgrade federal health information technology and develop and improve interoperability among health information technology systems across the country. The budget also set forth four legislative proposals focused on interoperability:

• establishing health IT governance certification;

• prohibiting information blocking, which can interfere with the exchange of electronic health information;

• requiring that certified health IT vendors report on their costs, capabilities and performance limitations; and

• providing the ONC with the authority to create a Health IT Safety Collaborative that can come up with ways to improve the reporting of health-IT related safety events.