Lawmakers, Groups Urge CMS To Change EHR Hardship Rules

July 15, 2014 in News

Physician societies and lawmakers are urging CMS to make changes to hardship rules under the meaningful use program, The Hill reports.

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments. Beginning in 2015, most health care providers who do not meet meaningful use criteria will face reduced Medicare reimbursements.

Details of Lawmakers’ Request

On Thursday, 89 House lawmakers in a letter asked CMS to delay the EHR meaningful use requirement for pathologists until at least 2020.

CMS has granted pathologists a hardship exemption from next year’s requirement. However, the agency has not said whether it will extend the waiver and has indicated that pathologists and other physicians should not expect to receive such an exemption in future years, according to the College of American Pathologists (Al-Faruque, The Hill, 7/14). If the waiver is not extended, Medicare Part B payments for pathologists who do not upgrade to EHRs would be cut by 2% in 2016 and 3% in 2017 (Young, CQ HealthBeat, 7/14).

In the letter, lawmakers noted that pathologists do not have much direct contact with patients and typically do not use patients’ EHRs. “Instead, pathologists use sophisticated computerized laboratory information systems to support the work of analyzing patient specimens and generating test results,” they wrote.

CAP in a statement said the letter echoed its concerns that meeting meaningful use is too much of a financial burden for Medicare diagnostic labs (The Hill, 7/14).

Request from American College of Cardiology

Meanwhile, the American College of Cardiology is seeking to delay the deadline for meaningful use Stage 2, CQ HealthBeat reports.

ACC added that the deadline for seeking a 2015 hardship exemption for meeting Stage 2 requirements should be extended from July 1 to Oct. 1, when providers will have a better sense of their ability to meet the requirements.

The group said that “[r]ushing adoption and implementation simply to meet the EHR Incentive program’s requirements would be foolish” and that “EHR systems have not advanced to the degree needed to meet the Stage 2 requirements.”

Further, ACC noted that CMS already proposed delaying the requirement to attest to Stage 2 of the meaningful use program and implement 2014-certified EHR technology (CQ HealthBeat, 7/14).

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