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Congressmen Introduce Health IT Bill That Would Shorten MU Reporting Period

April 20, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and others, have introduced the Flexibility in Electronic Health Record (EHR) Reporting Act, a bill with bipartisan support that would make modifications to the meaningful use program.

Current MU regulations require providers to show data from 365 days in order to attest to achieving the program’s objectives. Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) eased the requirements so that providers only had to submit data for a 90-day period for 2015, but this flexibility wouldn’t be allowed for returning participants to the program for future years.

As such, the Flexibility in Electronic Health Record Reporting Act would shorten, in statute, the MU reporting period from one year to 90 days, so that physicians and hospitals can participate in the program with more time and flexibility to work through the technology delays and rigid measures CMS has instituted, according to a statement from Sen. Portman’s office. Last month, various healthcare organizations wrote a letter to CMS pushing for the same shortened reporting period.

“The continued procrastination by CMS to provide relief from the tough and inflexible deadlines within the meaningful use program has prompted myself and Senator Portman to rally our colleagues and take action,” said Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who last year co-sponsored the Meaningful Use Hardship Relief Act with Rep. Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.). That bill was worked into the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, a bill signed into law last year with the aim to make it easier for healthcare providers to receive hardship exemption from financial penalties for failing to meet Stage 2 meaningful use EHR requirements. Ellmers and Price are both involved in the introduction of this new bill, along with Portman, Bennet, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.).

“As a nurse, I continue to recognize the problems physicians, hospitals and healthcare providers face when working to meet CMS’ stringent meaningful use requirements,” Ellmers said. “While provider participation in this program is important, it’s clear that our medical community is eager for relief but that CMS is in no hurry to provide it. Today’s bipartisan and bicameral legislation is critical to the ongoing conversation about how to best serve patients and supply relief to the provider community.”

This 90-day policy is supported by many healthcare stakeholder organizations, including the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), which released a statement of its own on April 20. “The Flexibility in EHR Reporting Act represents a sensible approach to modifying the meaningful use program by granting healthcare providers much-needed flexibility without compromising the goal of further digitizing healthcare. We are especially encouraged that both the Senate and House bills have bipartisan support. There’s growing acknowledgement across the industry that a 90-day reporting period for meaningful use, rather than the current 365-day construct, is a more reasoned approach to public policy.

The statement continued, “Healthcare providers are firmly committed to the goals of the meaningful use program and to using information technology to transform the delivery system. However, providers face significant changes to the meaningful use program once the federal government issues final rules under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. A 90-day reporting period would allow providers to adjust to the new regulatory environment all the while continuing to find innovate ways of using health IT to improve care processes and workflows.”

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