After pushing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) to publish final rule for the modifications to the meaningful use program from 2015-2017, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) is now asking the feds to extend the 2015 reporting period into the first quarter of 2016.
In April, CMS issued a new proposed rule to align meaningful use Stage 1 and Stage 2 objectives and measures with the long-term proposals for Stage 3. The proposed rule would streamline reporting requirements and would shorten Medicare and Medicaid meaningful use attestation for eligible professionals and hospitals to a 90-day period in 2015. Comments for that proposed rule were due on June 15.
Nonetheless, that final rule has yet to be issued. In a recent letter to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell from MGMA, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and other industry groups, they said, “The October 3rd deadline to begin the final possible 90-day reporting period in calendar year 2015 is fast-approaching. If providers do not receive the Final Rule shortly, it will be very difficult to make workflow adjustments in a timely manner to meet programmatic deadlines and facilitate meaningful use tracking and reporting.” Other hospital and health system-represented groups, including the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the Premier healthcare Alliance, have also written to HHS urging the department to publish the rule.
MGMA’s recent request now reads, “The delay in finalizing these much-needed modifications has caused unnecessary industry confusion and uncertainty and stalled meaningful use progress. MGMA is very concerned that medical groups will have insufficient time to transition their software and workflow to meet the revised requirements and as a result, we expect that many providers will be unable to attest in 2015.”
Halee Fischer-Wright, M.D, MGMA president and CEO, said in the statement, “Even if the final rule came out today, the window of time that CMS is leaving medical groups and vendors to adjust workflows and update systems is both unacceptable and unrealistic. Forcing groups and their EHR vendor partners to scramble in a short period of time to meet the Oct. 3 start date for the last reporting period essentially guarantees that a significant number of program participants will fail in 2015. Adding to this challenge is the fact that the industry is facing the transition to ICD-10 on Oct. 1, yet another demanding government initiative.”
The healthcare industry is now left with just one month to complete system updates and comply with new requirements. As such, MGMA is calling on CMS to allow medical groups the option of reporting for 2015 in the last 90 days of 2015 or into the first 90 days of 2016. For the 2016 reporting year, MGMA recommends that the agency move to a 90-day reporting period—permitting those providers who select the first 90 days of 2016 to report 2015 measures three remaining quarters to report 2016 measures.
“Providing this flexibility will permit groups additional time to upgrade their EHRs to the revised Stage 2 specifications and test these systems to ensure that they are able to conform to program requirements while meeting the practical needs of clinicians and their patients. An extension of the 2015 reporting year is absolutely vital to continued program success,” said Fischer-Wright.