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Washington Debrief: Senate Committee Releases Bipartisan Health IT Legislation

January 25, 2016
by Leslie Kriegstein, Interim Vice President of Public Policy, CHIME
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Congressional Affairs

Senate Committee Releases Bipartisan Health IT Legislation

Key Takeaway: The 68-page draft bill released by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee featured references to key CHIME issues including: patient matching, standards harmonization and reducing the administrative burdens caused by electronic health records (EHRs).

Why It Matters: Last week the HELP Committee released the long-awaited work product of their six Committee hearings on health IT and EHRs. The Committee hopes the legislation will spur interoperability, enable innovation and improve usability of health IT products for providers and patients.

Only resembling key themes of the interoperability-focused provision of the House-passed 21st Century Cures Act, the Senate HELP Committee’s stand-alone health IT bill, which will accompany a number of biomedical innovation bills, focuses on seven key topics:

  1. Assisting Doctors and Hospitals in Improving Quality of Care for Patients
  2. Transparent Ratings on Usability and Security to Transform Information Technology (TRUST IT)
  3. Information Blocking
  4. Interoperability
  5. Leveraging Health Information Technology to Improve Patient Care
  6. Empowering Patients and Improving Patient Access to Their Electronic Health Information
  7. Encouraging Trust Relationships for Certified Electronic Health Records (EHR)
  8. GAO Study on Patient Matching

Of interest to CHIME, the bill would direct the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on patient matching. In particular, it asks GAO to evaluate current methods for patient matching and to determine if the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology could take steps to improve patient matching. While we would prefer a national identification solution, this important step signifies Congress’ recognition and willingness to address the important of linking patients to their healthcare data.

CHIME submitted comments to the Committee to inform the development of this draft legislation last July and will again submit comments to Committee this week.

Comments on the draft legislation are due on Friday, January 29, 2016. Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced the Committee would review the bill during an executive session on February 9, 2016.

Federal Affairs

2015 Program Year Meaningful Hardship Application Released

Key Takeway: CMS Releases New Hardship Application for the 2015 Program Year – first filing deadline is March 15, 2016

Why it Matters: Last week, CMS released the hardship applicatiosn which providers (EPs and EHs) can use to avoid a penalty under Meaningful Use for the 2015 Program Year.  The revised applications are required under the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act (PAMPA) which was signed into law at the end of 2015. In the past eligible hospitals and eligible professionals have had separate application forms, however, the new application can be used by both physicians and hospitals.  Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) have their own application (CAHs that have already submitted a form for 2015 are not required to resubmit).  The new applications and instructions are to avoid a penalty in 2017 for the 2015 reporting year. Instructions for completing the applications can be found here.  More information can also be found on the CMS website.

Under the new applications CMS permits providers to file as individuals or as groups.  Prior to the new law, each provider had to submit a separate application. There are several deadlines providers should be aware of (and also while not mentioned below the law allows providers to apply on a case by case basis as late as :