House Bill Enables Blanket MU Hardship Exemptions for 2015
Key Takeaway: Legislation was introduced last week that would enable the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to grant blanket hardship exemptions in 2015 to eligible professionals and hospitals due to the delayed release of the Stage 2 modifying rules.
Why It Matters: The Meaningful Use Hardship Relief Act of 2015 (H.R. 3940), introduced by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), a physician and chairman of the House Budget Committee, would give CMS the ability to grant blanket hardship exemptions to program applicants in 2015 citing the late publication of the Meaningful Use Modifications Rule, rather than on a case-by-case basis as current authority dictates. The bill has six original cosponsors.
Hospitals and physicians will have until late winter to apply for a hardship exemption for the 2015 program year. Many provider organizations have called on CMS to be generous in granting hardship exemptions for 2015 due to the late release of the modifications rule.
HHS Inspector General 2016 Work Plan Includes Device Security and EHRs in ACOs
Key Takeaway: Last week, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled their 2016 Work Plan. It includes additional oversight of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) and an enhanced focus on data security. The work plan highlights that the exchange of electronic health information is a top challenge facing HHS.
Why It Matters: Industry stakeholders including CHIME have called for clear direction and additional resources to be made available by HHS relative to cybersecurity and the protection of digital health information, citing a lack of federal leadership on the critical issue of cybersecurity. The IG’s announcement of increased focus on cybersecurity and the protection of electronic protected health information (ePHI) could generate findings that could be useful to the healthcare industry as we collectively seek to improve our overall preparedness to growing cyber threats.
The work plan highlighted a new oversight focus on networked medical devices overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the extent to which health information is protected. The integration of medical devices into EHRs and a hospital’s network could pose signification security risks, according to the work plan.
The IG also described a report due out next year that will examine HHS's Office for Civil Rights and its oversight of the security of electronic health information.
Of note, “OIG has identified the meaningful and secure exchange and use of electronic information and health information technology, as top management challenges facing the Department. Going forward, OIG’s planning efforts will consider the significant challenges that exist with respect to Health IT adoption; meaningful use; and interoperability across providers, across HHS, and between providers and patients.”