GOP 'reboot' senators release draft bill to 'improve' Meaningful Use

The six GOP senators who called for a "reboot" of the Meaningful Use program in 2013 have drafted legislation to "improve" the program and are asking the Health and Human Services Department for technical assistance on the effort.

In a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, the lawmakers write that they've identified "a few key policy changes" based on the feedback they received from their "reboot" report and from stakeholders regarding their concerns about interoperability, security of patient information, potential for improved healthcare and reduced costs through health IT adoption and the long-term sustainability of health IT programs. They include Sens. John Thune (S.D.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Richard Burr (N.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.).

"These policies seek to provide CMS with the tools and guidance necessary to advance the use of EHRs as part of utilization of health IT to the benefit of patients in a manner that protects the significant taxpayer investment in our nation's healthcare system," the letter states.

The draft legislation, among other things, would:

  • Provide for a 90-day reporting period for providers, although a provider could elect to report for a longer period
  • Remove the all-or-nothing approach to Meaningful Use, instead applying a 75 percent passing grade
  • Extend flexibility in applying for hardship exceptions

The draft legislation mirrors prior concerns voiced by policymakers regarding problems with the Meaningful Use program, such as the inflexible hardship exceptions and lack of interoperability.  

A group of bipartisan lawmakers from both the House and Senate introduced a bill last week calling for a 90-day reporting period for 2016. A bill allowing for some flexibility in applying for hardship exceptions was signed into law last December.

The senators request feedback from HHS on their letter by May 13.

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