Congress may add MU interoperability requirements to permanent SGR fix

Members of Congress are using the continued debate over the Medicare sustainable growth rate as an opportunity to require more interoperability among electronic health records in the Meaningful Use program, Government Health IT has reported.

Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) recommended an amendment to the SGR fix that would require interoperability by 2017 in order for a provider to be a meaningful user of EHRs. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) suggested a slightly different amendment that would require the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to adopt standards to ensure that EHRs were interoperable by 2017. The House SGR bill also called for interoperability by 2017.

Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program is slated to begin in 2017.

The SGR is the current method used to determine physician and other practitioner Medicare payments, and has long been a point of contention since it requires scheduled payment reductions. President Obama signed a law on Dec. 26, 2013, granting providers a three month reprieve by preventing a payment reduction until March 2014, but that law did not include any interoperability changes to the Meaningful Use program.

Congress now is working on a permanent fix to the SGR. It is not yet known whether the permanent SGR fix will include any amendments to the Meaningful Use program.

This is not the first time that Congress has expressed a desire to change the Meaningful Use program. Seventeen Republican senators in September urged HHS to extend Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use Incentive Program in large part because of continuing concerns with the lack of interoperability among EHR systems. Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed an extension of Meaningful Use Stage 2 through 2016.

To learn more:
- read the Government Health IT article