Legislation Would Continue 90-Day Reporting Period for Meaningful Use in 2015
Key Takeaway: Bipartisan legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives last week that would maintain a 90-day reporting period for the Meaningful Use Program in 2015. Introduced during National Health IT Week, the Flex-IT Act received widespread attention throughout the industry’s primary advocacy week.
Next Steps: CHIME has an issued an open “Call to Action” to all members who believe a shortened reporting period for Meaningful Use in 2015 would positively impact their efforts to improve care and patient safety through health IT. Interested CHIME members should click here to learn more.
Why It Matters: The Flex-IT Act would negate the latest final rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and adjust the program reporting timeline, giving providers the option to choose any three-month quarter for EHR reporting in 2015. CHIME and many other healthcare organizations believe this legislation will reinforce investments made to date and will ensure continued momentum toward the goals of the Meaningful Use Program, including enhanced care coordination and interoperability. To date, only 143 hospitals have met Stage 2 requirements using updated technology. This represents a very small percentage of the 3,800 hospitals required to be Stage 2-ready within the next 10 days.
Last week, Representatives Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Jim Matheson (D-UT) introduced HR 5481, the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting Act of 2014. The bill received swift and widespread support from CHIME. “The Flex-IT Act would negate the latest final rule by CMS and adjust the program reporting timeline; giving providers the option to choose any three-month quarter for EHR reporting in 2015,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell. “CHIME commends Congresswoman Ellmers and Congressman Matheson for their immense leadership on this critically important issue following the healthcare industry's joint call to action...”
During the course of National Health IT Week, several groups, including the AHA, AMA and HIMSS, offered support for the bill’s language. At a press conference, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) pointed to the Flex-IT Act and a shortened reporting period as way to provide relief for physicians, a key to ensuring the success of the Meaningful Use Program. Rep. Gingrey, the Vice Chair of the GOP Doctors Caucus, is one of four cosponsors of the legislation.
CMS Website Issues Surface; Congress Calls for Swift Action
Key Takeaway: Media outlets reported last week that CMS’s Meaningful Use Registration and Attestation website would not accommodate attestations until “mid-October.” The website must be reconfigured to accept changes made to Meaningful Use in 2014, CMS officials noted.
Why it Matters: The inability of the website to accept attestation data will directly affect thousands of physicians who have yet to attest to MU; this group of eligible professionals has until Oct. 1 to attest or they will be subject to penalties in 2015. The CMS attestation website has sometimes been a subject of concern for providers that last year faced similar glitches. CHIME members experiencing issues with the website are encouraged to report the issue here.
First reported by Politico and confirmed by Bloomberg, CMS’s Registration and Attestation website will not be able to accept data until “mid-October,” according to a source at CMS. “The systems require significant changes in how they function to receive attestations in order to allow for providers to use the flexible options,” a CMS spokesperson told Bloomberg. “Those changes will be live in mid-October, in time for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals to attest at the close of the fiscal year for their EHR reporting period in 2014.” The issue is of more immediate concern to physicians in their first year of Meaningful Use because they are required to attest by October 1 or they will face penalties. To this, CMS officials noted that these EPs had an opportunity to file a hardship exception by July 1 and should have done so.
In response, Congresswoman Ellmers and Congressman Matheson sent a letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner requesting an administrative delay in the October 1, 2014, attestation deadline for those in their first year of Meaningful Use. “We are concerned that these providers will receive fines, even though they are acting in good faith to meet CMS deadlines,” the two wrote. The letter also reiterated demands to take immediate action to shorten the reporting period in 2015 for the Meaningful Use Program.
CHIME News & Notes
Providers to HHS: Change 2015 Reporting Period to Save Meaningful Use
Key Takeaway: CHIME joined 15 provider and hospital groups last week, sending a letter (http://www.cio-chime.org/advocacy/resources/download/Letter_to_Burwell_2015_EHR_Reporting_Period_Concerns_Final.pdf) to Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to reiterate the need for a 90-day reporting period in 2015.
Why It Matters: According to the Meaningful Use Modifications Final Rule, hospitals are still required to start a 365-day reporting period on October 1, 2014, and eligible providers on January 1, 2015, but the letter states that many hospitals and providers are still struggling to implement 2014-edition CEHRT and won’t be ready in time.
The Meaningful Use Modifications Rule (http://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Legislation/EHRIncentivePrograms/EducationalMaterials.html) gave hospitals and providers flexibility for Meaningful Use reporting in 2014. Whether a hospital or physician was supposed to attest to Stage 1 or Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, the rule enabled any entity that could not fully implement 2014 CEHRT for a reporting period in 2014 to choose the best route for them – 2013 Stage 1 requirements, 2014 Stage 1 requirements or they could continue on to Stage 2.
In defense of the progress the Meaningful Use has made, the stakeholders’ letter says, “The additional time and flexibility afforded by these modifications will help hundreds of thousands of providers meet Stage 2 requirements in an effective and safe manner. This will reinforce investments made to date, and it will ensure continued momentum towards the goals of Stage 3, including enhanced care coordination and interoperability.”
To date, only 3,152 eligible professionals have attested to MU Stage 2; 4,872 providers have attested to MU Stage 1; 143 hospitals have attested to MU Stage 2 and fewer than 300 hospitals have attested to MU Stage 1 in 2014. By contrast, 290,307 providers and 4,007 hospitals attested to Stage 1 in 2013. This is a significant drop in MU participation from 2013 to 2014 because of a lack of access to certified technology, or not enough time to fully implement it and train the workforce.