Congressional pressure is mounting on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to shorten the Meaningful Use program’s reporting period for eligible professionals and hospitals from 365 days to 90 days.

Six U.S. senators last week wrote to CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell requesting feedback on draft legislation they are proposing for policy changes designed to improve the MU program.

Last month, Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) joined by members of the House of Representatives introduced the Flexibility in Electronic Health Record Reporting Act that would likewise reduce the MU reporting period from one year to 90 days. Currently, providers are required by CMS to show data from 365 days to comply with the MU program.

Bloomberg file photo

“These policies seek to provide CMS with the tools and guidance necessary to advance the use of EHRs as part of utilizing health IT, to the benefit of patients in a manner that protects the significant taxpayer investment in our nation’s healthcare system,” wrote Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.) and John Thune (R-SD).

Thune requested that Burwell and Slavitt provide their feedback on the draft legislation no later than May 13.

In addition to easing MU requirements so that providers only have to submit data for a 90-day reporting period, the draft legislation would give physicians and hospitals more time to implement EHR systems; extend the ability of providers to apply for hardship exemptions; and relax the “all-or-nothing” approach of the current meaningful use incentive program, which, in essence, penalizes providers for failing to achieve any one of the objectives.

The senators intend to do away with “100 percent compliance” for eligible professionals and hospitals for the 2016 EHR reporting period and subsequent reporting periods. The draft legislation states that the HHS Secretary may determine that an eligible professional or hospital is a “meaningful EHR user for the EHR reporting period for 2018” if they meet “at least 75 percent (as determined by the Secretary) of the objectives and measures.”

The letter to Burwell and Slavitt comes as CMS seems to be offering increasing flexibility in the MU program. On April 27, CMS released its proposed rule for the implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), which seeks to simplify reporting by no longer requiring all-or-nothing EHR measurement or quality reporting, reducing the number of measures to 11 measures, and no longer requiring reporting on the clinical decision support and the computerized provider order entry measures.

Further, the CMS proposed rule would exempt certain physicians from reporting when EHR technology is less applicable to their practice and allow physicians to report as a group. If finalized, the rule would replace the current MU program and reporting would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

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