New legislation introduced to Congress Wednesday aims to delay Stage 3 of Meaningful Use until at least 2017 to give providers "time to breathe and a reprieve from the unfair penalties."
Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) put forth H.R. 3309, "the Further Flexibility in HIT Reporting and Advancing Interoperability Act," or Flex-IT 2 Act.
"Today's legislation is key to supplying healthcare providers with flexibility and certainty, as they struggle yet again to meet the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' stringent requirements pertaining to Meaningful Use," Ellmers (right) said in an announcement.
Among provisions in the act:
- Delay Stage 3: Until at least 2017 or until 75 percent of doctors and hospitals are successful in meeting Stage 2
- Harmonize reporting requirements to remove duplicative measurement and streamline requirements from CMS
- Have a 90-day reporting period each year, regardless of a provider's stage or their program experience
- Push for interoperability among electronic health record systems
- Expand hardship exemptions
The proposal has providers reporting on the same streamlined definition of Meaningful Use at the Stage 3 level, regardless of prior participation, starting in 2018. Prior to that, there would be a proposed "optional" year in 2017; and it would require reporting on a calendar-year basis starting in 2017.
Ellmers, in January, had reintroduced the first FLEX-IT Act, which focused on shortening the Meaningful Use attestation period in 2015 from 365 to 90 days.
In a statement following Ellmers' announcement, the College of Health Information Management Executives said that the "Flex-IT 2 Act serves to strengthen accountability and effectiveness of an e-enabled healthcare system and ensure long-term vitality of Meaningful Use."
CHIME previously has called Stage 3 too ambitious and said its proposals are "unworkable."
The American Medical Association also declared "strong support" for the bill in a statement.
"The AMA thanks Rep. Ellmers for sharing our deep concern with a Meaningful Use program that continues to move ahead without first fixing barriers faced by physicians, hospitals, vendors and patients," AMA President Steven Stack said. "Under Rep. Ellmers' leadership, federal regulations would be revised to provide greater flexibility for physicians to meet the Meaningful Use requirements and ensure that Stage 3 of the program is developed in step with other efforts to modernize our nation's healthcare system."
However, not everyone supports delaying Stage 3.
Allscripts CEO Paul Black said at a Senate's Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committee hearing that the industry should stay the course with the rollout of Stage 3, noting that 2018 is a long way away.