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AHA Supports Draft Legislation to Include Hospitals in MU Flexibility

May 18, 2016
by Heather Landi
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In a letter to Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), the American Hospital Association voiced it support for proposals in draft legislation that would make changes to the meaningful use program.

Earlier this month, the Senate Reboot Group, a collection of six Republican Senators, sent a letter and draft legislation to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell, urging flexibility be offered to all participants in the Meaningful Use Program, requesting technical assistance with the accompanying draft legislation.

Along with Sen. Thune, the other five senators are Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

Specifically, the senators’ legislation would shorten the reporting period for eligible physicians and hospitals from 365 days to 90 days, which would give providers more time to implement electronic health record (EHR) systems, relax the all-or-nothing nature of the current program requirement, and extend the ability for eligible providers and hospitals to apply for a hardship exemption from the meaningful use requirements.

According Healthcare Informatics’ Washington Debrief from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), “A key component of the REBOOT proposal was the request for the MU program changes to be made for both eligible hospitals and eligible physicians alike, a sentiment that was shared by the leadership of the Senate Committee on Finance in a letter sent to Acting Administrator Slavitt concerning the then- forthcoming MACRA regulations.”

In its letter to Sen. Thune, the AHA, representing nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other healthcare organizations, wrote that the draft legislation would provide “much-needed relief to hospitals.”

“The AHA has long advocated for the elimination of the “all-or-nothing approach” to meaningful use of EHRs,” the AHA wrote. According to the organization, under the current “all-or-nothing” approach, failure to meet any one of the requirements under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs results in a large payment penalty. “This is unfair to hospitals that make good faith efforts to comply, may actually comply with a large percentage of the requirements, expend significant resources and funds in doing so, but still fall short,” the AHA stated.

The AHA also supports the draft legislation’s proposal to allow hospitals a 90-day EHR reporting period in 2016 and beyond and extends flexibility in applying hardship exemptions for meaningful use.

“The AHA also recommends expanding the hardship exception categories to allow providers to change EHR vendors during a reporting period to meet their needs without the additional burden of a payment adjustment,” the AHA wrote.

Further, the AHA wrote, “We note that the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 made changes to the meaningful use program for physicians that calls for greater flexibility in how physicians and other eligible clinicians are expected to use certified technology to support clinical care. As these changes are implemented, it will be essential to ensure that program requirements are aligned across all participants, including physicians, hospitals and critical access hospitals. This alignment is critical to ensuring the ability to share information and improve care coordination among providers across the continuum.”




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