Six senators who are members of the Senate Health IT Working Group late Thursday reintroduced legislation intended to give providers some flexibility and relief from requirements of the Electronic Health Record Meaningful Use Program.

The legislators have brought back the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Regulatory Relief Act (S. 2059); similar legislation was introduced in Congress last year to reduce compliance burdens faced by EHR users participating in the MU incentive program.

Bloomberg file photo

Those backing the bill include Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wy.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

The proposed legislation would ease requirements that currently are challenging for healthcare organizations to meet and annually the source of much industry pushback. Provisions include:

  • Shortening the reporting period for eligible physicians and hospitals from 365 days to 90 days.
  • Relaxing the all-or-nothing nature of the current program requirements, under which providers that fail to achieve only one of the MU objectives don’t qualify for incentive payments.
  • Extending the ability of providers to apply for hardship exceptions from meaningful use requirements for the 2017 EHR reporting period and payment adjustments for 2019.

Additionally, as implementation of the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System continues, the legislation would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to consider forthcoming recommendations from the Government Accountability Office to ensure flexibility in assessing physician performance.

“Health information technology, especially the advancements in electronic health records, is an integral part of the future of America’s health care delivery system,” said Thune. “Our bill ensures that unnecessary regulatory burdens do not continue to negatively affect providers’ ability to leverage technology to improve patient care. With such strong and continued support for this legislation, I’m hopeful it will lead to swift and meaningful action in the Senate.”

“This legislation will help reduce the regulatory burden doctors and hospitals have faced under the Meaningful Use program so they can instead focus on treating patients,” Alexander added. “I encourage the Senate to pass this bill to take a step towards getting our electronic health records system out of the ditch.”

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, holding its Fall CIO Forum in San Antonio, Texas, was quick to offer support for the proposed legislation.

“The policies proposed in this legislation have been on CHIME’s wish list to make the Meaningful Use program more reasonable for providers,” said Liz Johnson, Chair of CHIME Board of Trustees. “While the Meaningful Use program was instrumental in digitizing our industry, there is widespread recognition among the provider community that additional flexibilities are imperative to give providers the best chance at success as the program progresses. We appreciate the REBOOT group’s continued efforts to reduce the burden of the Meaningful Use program.”

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