Healthcare organizations are pressuring the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to set a 90-day reporting period for 2016 as the time period for providers that are seeking to attest to achieving meaningful use.

As September nears and with only four months remaining in 2016, providers need to know with certainty the length of the reporting period for meaningful use, says the letter, submitted yesterday to Andy Slavitt, CMS’ acting administrator.

The letter was signed by 21 professional organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Medical Informatics Association, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the Federation of American Hospitals and the Medical Group Management Association.

“The start of the final 90-day reporting period in calendar year 2016 is rapidly approaching, and to ensure that eligible professionals (EPs) and eligible hospitals (EHs) are able to take advantage of the flexibility associated with the shortened reporting period, the more it will help participants successfully attest in 2016 and make necessary changes to prepare for the first Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) program year,” the letter notes.

Current rules for the MU program require providers to submit data for all of 2016 to show they have achieved objectives for meaningful use. That represents a significant challenge in collecting data, and it’s also more difficult for providers to demonstrate that they’ve hit target levels over the course of an entire year.

In July, CMS hinted that it would move to a shorter reporting period for 2016; however, the agency has not formally adjusted current rules to shorten the reporting period for this year. Delays in finalizing the official reporting period causes problems downstream, the letter contends.

“Although a 90-day reporting period was granted for Meaningful Use program participants in 2015, the policy was not finalized until after the start of the final reporting period, so many providers were not able to take advantage of the additional flexibilities, and instead relied on hardship exemptions under the expanded authority established under the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act,” the letter stated.

“Thus, it is vital that the 90-day reporting period be finalized as soon as possible to avoid a similar scenario,” the letter states. “Finalizing the 90-day reporting period as quickly as possible will reduce the number of providers who must rely on a hardship exemption in 2016, and if the finalization of the policy is similarly delayed, CMS must be prepared to provide hardship exemptions, as was done in 2015.”

CMS also is facing pressure from legislators to make adjustments to the reporting period. In July, legislation introduced by six Senators aims to offer regulatory relief and flexibility for hospitals that are trying to meet obligations of the federal meaningful use program. The senators unveiled the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Regulatory Relief Act (S. 3173), indicating that they offered the bill to bring some of the relief announced for physicians to the hospital sector.

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