Lawmakers Call for Shorter Meaningful Use Reporting Period

December 18, 2014 in News

On Tuesday, a group of 30 members of Congress sent a letter urging HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to provide eligible professionals and hospitals with more flexibility to meet reporting requirements for the meaningful use program, Politico‘s “Morning eHealth” 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 (Gold, “Morning eHealth,” Politico, 12/18).

Led by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), the lawmakers called on Burwell to shorten the 2015 reporting period to 90 days to “give providers much-needed time to safely and effectively implement certified technology and continue their ‘meaningful use’ journey” (Miliard, Healthcare IT News, 12/18). Ellmers has introduced a bill (HR 5481) to require a three-month reporting period in 2015 for Stage 1 and Stage 2 rather than a full-year reporting period (iHealthBeat, 9/17). However, Congress has not taken action on the bill (Pittman, Politico Pro, 12/17).

In the letter, the lawmakers wrote, “We remain convinced that program success hinges on addressing the 2015 reporting period requirements.” They added, “Our constituents remain concerned that the pace and scope of change have outstripped the capacity of our nation’s hospitals and doctors to comply with program requirements.”

The letter was sent one day before CMS announced that about half of eligible professionals will receive a penalty starting Jan. 1, 2015, for failing to meet Medicare meaningful use requirements (Healthcare IT News, 12/18).

During a call with reporters, a CMS official said over the next few weeks the agency will send letters to providers notifying them of a 1% reduction in Medicare payments for not meeting program criteria. Meanwhile, more than 28,000 eligible professionals will receive a 2% reduction for failing to comply with both the electronic prescribing incentive program and the Medicare meaningful use program.

The CMS official said the Medicare payment adjustments will take effect Jan. 5, 2015, and providers will be able to apply for reconsideration if they feel they are being incorrectly penalized (iHealthBeat, 12/17).

Reaction

Steven Stack, president-elect of the American Medical Association, in a statement said that AMA is “appalled” that 50% of eligible professionals will be penalized under the program, noting that the “number … is even worse than we anticipated” (Lowes, Medscape, 12/17). He added that “the strict set of one-size-fits-all requirements is failing” and could “further destabiliz[e] physician practices and creat[e] a disincentive to see Medicare patients” (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 12/18).

Similarly, Robert Tennant, director of health IT policy at the Medical Group Management Association, said, “These numbers suggest that the program requirements may have been overly ambitious for physician practices and their EHR vendor partners,” adding that his organization would continue to push for increased flexibility.

American Academy of Family Physicians Board Chair Reid Blackwelder also expressed concern about the penalty, noting that it “affects a lot of our members, well-meaning physicians who are trying to move forward with implementation of the program.” AAFP also said it supports shortening the reporting period.

In addition, the American College of Physicians said it would “continue to advocate for changes” to improve the meaningful use program (Politico Pro, 12/17).

Meanwhile, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives President and CEO Russell Branzell on Wednesday praised the letter from Ellmers and her colleagues, saying they “have shown on this important, bipartisan issue and are pleased their colleagues recognize how essential meaningful use is in the modernization of the nation’s health care delivery system” (Healthcare IT News, 12/18).

 

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