Providers struggling to meet Meaningful Use requirements are a step closer to getting relief. A House subcommittee on Wednesday approved a bill amending the HITECH Act to remove a mandate requiring the Health and Human Services Secretary to continue to make MU standards more stringent over time.

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee voted in Wednesday’s markup session to advance H.R. 3120 to the full committee.

Sponsored by Reps. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Texas) and Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), the legislation seeks to reduce the volume of future electronic health record-related significant hardship requests for providers participating in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

“When it comes the value of electronic health records, progress has been made through policies enacted in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. However, the increase of more stringent measures for Meaningful Use for physicians and hospitals has done little to improve the use of EHRs or the quality of healthcare for patients, while increasing the need for the Department of Health and Human Services to grant more hardship waivers,” said Burgess, chairman of the subcommittee.

Also See: Providers hard-pressed to meet MU timelines, rely on hardship exemptions

In explaining the intent of H.R. 3120, a background memo from the full committee’s majority staff states that given that the HHS Secretary is “mandated to continue to raise the standards over time, more and more providers are likely to fall behind,” and as a result, “providers will often seek a hardship waiver to acknowledge they could not meet the increased standards,” which “increases the burden further on HHS to process an ever-increasing number of hardship requests.”

“The bill simply removes the mandate that Meaningful Use standards become more stringent over time,” according to the committee’s memo.

Burgess told subcommittee members that the bill will provide much-needed relief to hospitals and physicians and will enable HHS to be “more deliberative” with the Meaningful Use program.

The American Hospital Association, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives and Health IT Now are among the industry groups strongly supporting H.R. 3120.

In a July 21 letter to Burgess, AHA Executive Vice President Tom Nickels charged that “current regulations raise the bar on Meaningful Use requirements in Stage 3 and will be required beginning Jan. 1, 2018,” adding that “these rules contain provisions that are challenging, if not impossible, to meet and require use of immature technology standards.

“Given the complexity and level of difficulty in meeting all of the Meaningful Use criteria, the current all-or-nothing approach is overly burdensome,” Nickels said. “It also is unfair to providers that make good faith efforts to comply, may actually comply with a large percentage of the requirements, expend significant resources and funds in doing so, but still fall short.”

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