New Bill Would Shorten Meaningful Use Reporting Period

Ken Terry

January 22, 2015

Congressional allies of healthcare associations are putting pressure on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to shorten the 2015 reporting period for meaningful use stage 2 from a full calendar year to 90 days.

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) has introduced the Flexibility in Health IT (Information Technology) Reporting (FLex-IT) Act of 2015 to do just that.

Originally proposed last September, the bipartisan FLex-IT Act has four cosponsors: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn), Rep. G.T. Thompson (R-Pa), Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisc), and Rep. David Scott (D-Ga).

Congresswoman Ellmers said in a statement, "There is a tremendous need for our healthcare providers to have flexibility in meeting [the Department of Health and Human Services'] stiff deadlines, and this is precisely why I am reintroducing the Flex-IT Act. The time constraints imposed on doctors and hospitals are inflexible and simply unmanageable — and this is evident by the dreadful Stage 2 Meaningful Use attestation numbers released by CMS late last year."

The press release cites a CMS report from December 2014 indicating that only 4% of physicians and less than 35% of hospitals had achieved meaningful use stage 2. That included all eligible providers, whether or not they were scheduled to meet stage 2 criteria.

CMS recently issued new figures showing that, as of November 30, 2014, about 60% of stage 2–eligible professionals and 77% of stage 2–eligible hospitals had attested to achieving stage 2 of the program. To be eligible for stage 2, physicians and hospitals must have attested to stage 1 for 2 years previously. About 40% of physicians and a little more than half of hospitals are stage 2–eligible.

At the Health IT Policy Committee meeting at which CMS presented its new data, Dawn Helsey-Grove, a public analyst at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, noted that in past years, the majority of eligible professionals had attested after the close of the calendar year, according to an article in Health Data Management. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT expects many more physicians to attest through the end of February, she said.

Meanwhile, Medicare has begun cutting its payments to 257,000 physicians who did not meet the meaningful use requirements through the end of 2014. The full-year reporting requirement this year is expected to exacerbate this issue as more and more physicians drop out of the government's electronic health records incentive program.

Industry Support

Industry groups quickly moved to support the reintroduced FLex-IT Act, according to a release from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. Among the associations praising the legislation were the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Hospital Association, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society, and Medical Group Management Association.

These organizations, along with Ellmers and some other congressional representatives, previously sent letters to the Department of Health and Human Services asking CMS to shorten the reporting period, as reported by FierceEMR.

The reporting period is only one of the challenges facing providers who wish to attest to meaningful use stage 2. Other problems include the slow pace of vendors in obtaining electronic health record certification, the lack of infrastructure for meeting the interoperability requirements of stage 2, and the difficulties that many providers have encountered in getting patients to download and view their own health records, according to the Modern Medicine Network.


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