GOP Doctors Caucus urges delay of MU Stage 3, blanket hardship exception for Stage 2

The GOP Doctors Caucus has weighed in against the Meaningful Use program, sending a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan urging that Stage 3 of the program be delayed and a blanket hardship waiver exception be granted for Stage 2.

The letter, dated Nov. 20, and first reported by Politico, uses harsh language against the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' decision to go forward with the rule implementing Stage 3 and modifying Stage 2, saying that CMS "pushed forward in the face of bipartisan, bicameral opposition," that CMS' delay in releasing the modification rule put physicians in an "untenable" position and that the ensuing inability for many to meet Meaningful Use in 2015 is a problem "created by CMS."

The caucus asks that the "deeply flawed Stage 3 rule" be delayed, saying that "legislative remedy is the only way to ensure providers are protected" and needed to "prevent the harmful effects" of the rule.

The 18-member caucus, comprised of House members who also are clinicians, recommends that a blanket hardship exception is needed because the delay in issuing the Stage 2 modification rule has created a "discrepancy" that CMS, so far, has been unwilling to fix. While CMS is willing to grant physicians hardship waivers, the agency doesn't believe it can handle the burden of providing them on a case-by-case basis, as required by the rule. As a result, many exceptions will not be processed before penalties kick in.

"Given the fact that only 12 percent of physicians have met Stage 2 requirements, we believe a simultaneous implementation of more-stringent criteria, along with the assessment of penalties for the first time this year, is likely to create a chilling effect on further EMR adoption as physicians conclude that the cost of implementation is simply not worth the bureaucratic hassle," the caucus members write.

The caucus also has asked for the Comprehensive Joint Replacement initiative to be delayed.

Lawmakers and others have expressed concern about the new Meaningful Use rules, which were released Oct. 6. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) has introduced a bill that would authorize a blanket Meaningful Use hardship exemption for the 2015 reporting period due to the delay in timely publication of the rule altering the requirements for reporting.

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