Debate over Stage 2 start date heats up

September 25, 2013 in Medical Technology

The start date for Stage 2 of the meaningful use incentive program, expected to begin Oct. 1, 2013 for hospitals and Jan. 1, 2014 for eligible providers is once again up for discussion. This is not the first time that lawmakers have called for a delay. This July, at a Senate Finance Committee meeting, the debate was rekindled to no avail.

Though federal leaders have not indicated they will bend toward a new start date, 17 GOP senators on Tuesday tried to sway the status quo. In a letter, the Senators asked the Department of Health and Human Services to extend the meaningful use program’s attestation deadline by one year, relaying a message from some of their provider constituents.

Sen. John Thune, a South Carolina Republican and chair of the Senate Republican Conference, and Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennesee and  a ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, led the charge. They argue there are “several key problems with the current timeline.

“First, we are concerned the regulatory structure of the program has created significant time pressure in 2014, and progressing to Stage 2 may not be feasible for all participants,” they wrote. That in turn could “further widen the digital divide for small and rural providers who lack the resources of large practices and may not be vendors’ top priorities.”

The senators were also concerned that “an artificially aggressive Stage 2 timeline may stifling innovation and increase medical errors.”

HIMSS has urged HHS to keep the Stage 2 start dates as is, yet with a more nuanced approach. In an Aug. 15 letter, HIMSS asked federal officials to launch Stage 2 on schedule but extend year one of the attestation period.

Drawing on data from the HIMSS Analytics database, the HIMSS Board of Directors argues that the timeline and certification challenges faced by eligible hospitals, eligible professionals and technology vendors do indeed necessitate a longer attestation window.

That period should extend through April 2015 and June 2015 for EHs and EPs, respectively, they say. This would encompass 18 months in which those groups can attest to meaningful use requirements for one quarter.

 [See also: Keep stage 2 start as is, says HIMSS.]

On Tuesday, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives praised the senators for their request to delay Stage 2.

CHIME believes the extension of Stage 2 will give providers sufficient time to meet new program requirements, while maintaining software development and deployment deadlines, and it will better enable patients to receive the benefits of an e-enabled U.S. healthcare system.

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