Thirty members of Congress—28 Republicans and two Democrats—have sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell urging a shortened 90-day EHR reporting period in 2015.

The lawmakers argue that the policy change is critical to ensuring that hospitals and physicians can successfully participate in the Meaningful Use program.

Spearheaded by Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), the letter points out that a final rule published on Sept. 4 by HHS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services offered flexibility in attesting for Stage 2 during the short period of time remaining in the 2014 calendar and fiscal years, but retained a provision for a full-year of reporting in 2015.

They also reference the latest data from CMS revealing that less than 35 percent of hospitals currently meet Stage 2 requirements and while eligible professionals have until the end of February 2015 to report their progress, only 4 percent of EPs have met Stage 2 requirements to date. According to CMS, as of Dec. 1, 2014, just 1,681 hospitals and 16,455 EPs have attested to Stage 2 Meaningful Use.

“With such extremely low attestation rates, we are unclear why HHS maintains that healthcare providers, hospitals and physicians alike must perform a full-year EHR reporting period in 2015,” states the letter. “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. Unfortunately, the final rule, published by your department in the September 4 Federal Register, disregarded recommendations made by the vast majority of healthcare stakeholders to allow a shortened reporting period in 2015. Instead, your department is requiring a full-year, 365-day reporting period of all providers in 2015.”

The letter warns that a full-year reporting period will “complicate the forward trajectory of Meaningful Use and jeopardize the $25 billion in federal investment made to date.” In September, Ellmers and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah)—who also signed the letter to HHS—introduced the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting (Flex-IT) Act of 2014 which if passed would have mandated a 90-day reporting period in 2015 as opposed to a full year.

Lawmakers conclude their letter stating that “immediate attention to these concerns is needed as the start of fiscal year 2015 marked the beginning of 365-day reporting period for hospitals and the full-year reporting requirement begins on January 1, 2015 for physicians.”

In related news, the American Medical Association in a Dec. 17 statement said that it is “appalled” by an announcement from CMS that more than 257,000 eligible professionals will face Medicare payment penalties in 2015 for failing to demonstrate MU in previous years. AMA president-elect Steven Stack, M.D., said that the number released by CMS is “even worse than we anticipated” and that in light of the “dismal number of eligible professionals meeting Meaningful Use” the program needs to be fixed. 

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