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Bill Would Cut 2015 Meaningful Use Reporting Period To 90 Days

Published Tuesday, September 16, 2014
by Neil Versel - Forbes contributor

Bipartisan legislation introduced late this afternoon would shorten the 2015 reporting period for the federal Meaningful Use electronic health records (EHR) incentive program from a full year to just 90 days, matching the 2014 requirement.

The proposed Flexibility in Health IT Reporting (Flex-IT) Act of 2014 (H.R. 5481), sponsored by Reps. Renee Elmers (R-N.C.), makes the exception for 2015 only, to address criticism that Stage 2 of Meaningful Use is too difficult for many providers to attain before Medicare penalties for noncompliance kick in next year. The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), a hospital CIO organization that strongly supports the bill, and Politico both report that Jim Matheson (D-Utah) is cosponsoring.

“By adjusting the timeline, providers would have the option to choose any three-month quarter for the EHR reporting period in 2015 to qualify for Meaningful Use. The additional time and flexibility afforded by these modifications will help hundreds of thousands of providers meet Stage 2 requirements in an effective and safe manner,” says a statement from Elmers. “This legislation will reinforce investments made to date and will ensure continued momentum towards the goals of the Meaningful Use Program, including enhanced care coordination and interoperability.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that just 143 hospitals and 3,152 physicians and other individual providers nationwide had attested to meeting Stage 2 through Aug. 25. That compares to the more than 291,000 individuals and 3,800 hospitals that have reached Stage 1 since the Meaningful Use program began in 2011.

On Aug. 29, CMS modified some of the 2014 requirements, but affirmed that it would require a full year of compliance in 2015. Elmers calls this decision “short-sighted,” a sentiment echoed by CHIME
and more than a dozen other organizations representing healthcare providers and IT professionals. Just yesterday, 16 groups, including CHIME, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society
(HIMSS), the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals, sent a pointed letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell calling for a 90-day reporting period in 2015.

“We urge you to take immediate action by shortening the 2015 HER reporting period to 90 days and by adding flexibility in how providers meet the Stage 2 requirements, particularly related to Transitions of Care and View, Download, Transmit measures. We believe these changes will have a dramatically positive effect on program participation and policy outcomes sought in 2015 and beyond,” the letter reads.

“The additional time and flexibility afforded by these modifications will help hundreds of thousands of providers meet Stage 2 requirements in an effective and safe manner. This will reinforce investments made to date and it will ensure continued momentum towards the goals of Stage 3, including enhanced care coordination and interoperability.”

The federal 2015 fiscal year begins Oct. 1; Medicare Part A and the hospital side of Meaningful Use are tied to that date. Individual providers follow the calendar year.

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