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AHA Pushes Congress for Meaningful Use Relief

November 16, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The American Hospital Association (AHA) is urging Congress to move forward with the Electronic Health Record Regulatory Relief Act (S. 3173), legislation introduced this summer aiming to provide regulatory flexibility to providers and hospitals operating under the Meaningful Use program.

According to AHA’s letter, the bill “would provide much-needed relief to hospitals as they work to ensure patients receive high-quality care. It would allow participants in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive programs to be deemed meaningful users if they meet 70 percent of the measures as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The AHA has long advocated for the elimination of the “all-or-nothing approach” to meaningful use of EHRs. Under this approach, failure to meet any one of the requirements under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive programs, even by a small amount, 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.”

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) sponsored the bill and stated in a summary document that “regulatory flexibility is necessary to help hospitals and medical providers focus on transitioning into the new, patient-focused payment policies created by Congress by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), instead of the “check-the-box” meaningful use program.”

These same six legislators are members of the Senate REBOOT group and authored a 2013 report, “REBOOT: Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT,” outlining their concerns with the meaningful use program.

Also in the EHR Regulatory Relief Act, the Senators propose to shorten the reporting period for eligible physicians and hospitals from 365 days to 90 days. “This will be especially important in 2018, which is slated to be the first year of Stage 3,” the letter wrote. Recently, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published an Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) final rule that will permit 90-day EHR reporting periods in both 2016 and 2017 for all returning EPs, eligible hospitals and CAHs (critical access hospitals) that have previously demonstrated meaningful use in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

The EHR Regulatory Relief Act also calls for providing hardship relief to providers for 2016 and 2017 to include insufficient internet connectivity, natural disasters, unexpected practice closures, vendor and certification issues and lack of face-to-face patient interaction.

AHA’s letter continued, MACRA “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. The Oct. 14 final regulations for MACRA fall short in this regard.”

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