AHA: Make EHR donation protections 'permanent'

Stakeholders have started to weigh in on proposed rules from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of Inspector General to update the regulatory protections to hospitals and others who subsidize electronic health record purchases for physicians, with the American Hospital Association calling for such protections to be made "permanent."

In its comment letter dated May 13, AHA stated that the protections are "of critical importance to the nation's efforts to adopt and expand operation of a robust national health IT infrastructure." AHA also noted that while the EHR incentive program provides financial assistance, it doesn't include all applicable providers and will itself expire within a few years.

CMS and OIG created the temporary protections from the Stark and anti-kickback laws in 2006 to encourage more physicians to transition to EHRs. The subsidies, also called donation programs, can be up to 85 percent of the cost of the EHR's software, training and upgrades. The protections are slated to "sunset" Dec. 31, 2013. 

The proposed rules, published in the Federal Register April 10, call for an extension of the sunset date to at least Dec. 31, 2016; however, the agencies stated that they would consider extending the donation protection even further. 

AHA also asked that the final rule clarify language in its preamble about covered technology, and suggested that adding conditions to prevent "lock-in" would be an unnecessary burden. 

Comments on the proposed rules, which the agencies will read together, are due by June 10. 

To learn more:
- here's the comment letter (.pdf)