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GOP Senators Want Feds to Include Hospitals for MU Flexibility

May 2, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Six GOP senators have written to federal officials to request feedback on legislation they drafted that would address the ongoing issues with implementation of the meaningful use program.

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.) wrote to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt last week about a report they wrote in 2013, “REBOOT: Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT.” The group penned a blog on Health Affairs as a follow-up last year.

“[W]e have identified a few key policy changes outlined in the enclosed draft legislation, and we respectfully request feedback as part of our continued constructive dialogue on these issues,” the senators wrote. “These policies seek to provide CMS with the tools and guidance necessary to advance the use of EHRs as part of utilizing health IT to the benefit of patients in a manner that protects the significant taxpayer investment in our nation’s healthcare system.”

Specifically, the senators’ legislation would shorten the reporting period for eligible physicians and hospitals from 365 days to 90 days, which would give providers more time to implement EHR systems, relax the all-or-nothing nature of the current program requirement, and extend the ability for eligible providers and hospitals to apply for a hardship exemption from the meaningful use requirements.

According to this week’s Washington Debrief from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), “A key component of the REBOOT proposal was the request for the MU program changes to be made for both eligible hospitals and eligible physicians alike, a sentiment that was shared by the leadership of the Senate Committee on Finance in a letter sent to Acting Administrator Slavitt concerning the then- forthcoming MACRA regulations.”

In the letter from Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), the members urged CMS to extend the flexibility afford to physicians in the meaningful use program to hospitals too. They wrote, “White the MACRA statute does not pertain to hospitals, CMS should strive to provide as much of the same flexibility to eligible hospitals as possible, consistent with the MU program statutory language.” They further encouraged the Administration to work with the Committee concerning statutory limitations that would prevent CMS from making the discussed improvements.

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