Meaningful Use Bill To Exempt Ambulatory Surgical Centers Advances

June 25, 2015 in News

On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved by voice vote a bill (S 1347) that would exclude patient encounters at ambulatory surgical centers from 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 (Tahir et al., “Morning eHealth,” Politico, 6/25).

Background

Under the meaningful use program, eligible professionals must conduct at least 50% of outpatient visits at facilities with a certified EHR to qualify for the incentive payment program.

Physicians who work at ambulatory surgical centers are at a disadvantage in meeting these qualifications because there are currently no certified EHR systems for those facilities. Further, there are no mandates that ambulatory surgical centers use EHR systems, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT does not have a certification program tailored to the centers (iHealthBeat, 2/27).

However, physicians who regularly or exclusively use ambulatory surgical centers for procedures would have to include patient encounters at the facilities when calculating the 50% patient visit requirement, even if the surgery took place at a center without a certified EHR.

Bill Details

The bipartisan bill would exclude ambulatory surgical center services from being counted toward the meaningful use program’s 50% eligibility threshold until tested and certified EHRs are made available at the facilities.

Specifically, the exclusion would end three years after ONC creates EHR standards for ambulatory surgical centers.

Scott Ketover, president and CEO of Minnesota Gastroenterology, said, “This legislation takes off the burden on the part of the provider figuring out where to treat their patients” (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 6/24).

House Passes Similar Bill

Meanwhile, the House last week passed a similar bill (HR 887) as part of a larger package (HR 2570) to bolster the Medicare Advantage program.

The Electronic Fairness Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), would exempt ambulatory surgical centers from penalties under the meaningful use program (Black release, 6/17).

In a statement, the Digestive Health Physicians Association applauded the passage of HR 887, saying the group commends the House for “supporting gastroenterologists who treat patients at [ambulatory surgical centers],” adding, “These physicians perform services in the [ambulatory surgical center] setting … and should not be punished when certified [EHRs] are unavailable at these sites” (Digestive Health Physicians Association release, 6/17).

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