With bipartisan support, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) has re-introduced in the House the Flex-IT Act, which would give providers a three-month electronic health records meaningful use reporting period in 2015 if quickly enacted.

The bill, whose sponsors include Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Ron Kind (D-Wisc.), Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.) and David Scott (D-Ga.), is in response to a September 2014 Department of Health and Human Services final rule requiring providers to perform a full-year EHR reporting period in 2015.

“There is a tremendous need for our healthcare providers to have flexibility in meeting HHS’ stiff deadlines, and this is precisely why I am reintroducing the Flex-IT Act,” said Ellmers in a written statement. “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. It’s hard to comprehend how HHS can move forward to full-year reporting when the numbers for 90-day reporting are so low—particularly when noting that half of the physicians in our country are now facing costly fines

Industry groups were quick to praise re-introduction of the bill, which was originally introduced last year in the 113th Congress. The American Academy of Family Physicians, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, Healthcare Information Management Systems Society and Medical Group Management Association issued a joint press release applauding the legislation.

“While CHIME remains committed to the success of Meaningful Use, and to making sure improved patient care is the program's lasting legacy, we believe significant changes are needed to address increased dissatisfaction with EHRs and growing disenchantment with the program,” said Russell P. Branzell, CHIME president and CEO, in a written statement. “This bill, if passed, would begin that much-needed course correction.”

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, more than 3,900 hospitals and 260,000 eligible professionals will have to meet Stage 2 requirements in 2015. However, CHIME estimates that more than half of these hospitals will likely seek hardship exceptions or face penalties this year. And, with CMS estimating that more than 257,000 EPs will receive penalties in 2015, the organization says the “likelihood of robust physician participation is doubtful."

Last month, 30 members of Congress—spearheaded by Ellmers—sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell urging a shortened 90-day EHR reporting period in 2015, arguing that the policy change is critical to ensuring that hospitals and physicians can successfully participate in the Meaningful Use program.

Text of H.R. 270, the Flex-IT Act of 2015, can be found here.

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