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Senators Introduce Legislation to Provide EHR Program Relief

November 4, 2017
by Heather Landi
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Six U.S. Senators introduced a bill that aims to provide regulatory flexibility to providers and hospitals operating under the meaningful use program by easing reporting requirements and instituting a 90-day reporting period.

The sponsors of the bill, S. 2059, the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Regulatory Relief Act, are the same six legislators who are members of the Senate REBOOT group and proposed a similar meaningful use overhaul bill last year. These same six senators—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.)—also authored a 2013 report, “REBOOT: Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT,” outlining their concerns with the meaningful use the program.

In a summary document, the sponsors of the bill wrote, "Feedback from the hospital and physician community resoundingly indicates that the burdens of compliance associated with electronic health records (EHRs) are negatively affecting hospitals and medical providers. Regulatory flexibility is necessary to help hospitals and medical providers focus on transitioning into patient-focused payment policies, instead of the 'check-the-box' meaningful use program."

The EHR Regulatory Relief Act seeks to eliminate all-or-nothing scoring, create a 90-day reporting period and expand hardship exemptions.

Rather than the “all-or-nothing approach,” the bill would create a new threshold that requires eligible hospitals to meet no more than 70 percent of the required metrics to satisfy meaningful use requirements. Recognizing the early stages of implementation of the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, the bill also would direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider forthcoming recommendations from the GAO with respect to improving EHR requirements for physicians.

According to the bill summary, current law requires HHS to make EHR standards more stringent over time, which drives more providers to seek hardship exceptions as they struggle to remain in compliance. The bill would eliminate this requirement so HHS can make deliberative decisions on standards moving forward and avoid a high volume of hardship requests in the future.

The proposed legislation also would extend hardship relief to providers for 2019, with reasons for hardship to include insufficient internet connectivity, natural disasters, unexpected practice closures, vendor and certification issues and lack of face-to-face patient interaction.

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