House bill aims to soften MU requirements for ASC-affiliated docs

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), joined by two Democrat and one Republican co-sponsors, has introduced legislation to soften the Meaningful Use requirements for eligible physicians (EPs) who treat patients in ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs).

The bill, H.R. 887, the Electronic Health Fairness Act of 2015, would tweak the definition of what constitutes Meaningful Use so that a patient encounter at an ASC would not be treated as a patient encounter in determining whether an eligible professional qualifies as a meaningful electronic health record user.

The bill attempts to deal with the fact that currently there are no certified EHR products for ASCs, which also are not part of the Meaningful Use program. However, physicians who work in an ASC are at a disadvantage when attempting to meet Meaningful Use, as to be a meaningful EHR user, an EP must have 50 percent or more of outpatient encounters at locations with a certified EHR. The bill would exempt patient encounters that occur in an ASC so that they are not used when calculating if an EP meets Meaningful Use, unless the EP elects to include them. The exemption would sunset when certified EHRs for ASCs become available.

This is not the first time Black, a registered nurse, has introduced such legislation. She introduced broader legislation in both 2012 and 2013 to improve the EHR program. Those bills recommended additional modifications to the Meaningful Use program, including extending incentives to physicians in rural health clinics and exempting certain solo practitioners and physicians near early retirement from the payment adjustment if they didn't meet the Meaningful Use requirements.  

This also is not the first time that lawmakers have attempted to tweak the Meaningful Use program, most recently with the introduction of the FLEX-IT Act, which would have reduced the 2015 reporting requirement from 365 to 90 days. That bill apparently will go by the wayside in light of CMS' subsequent announcement that it will implement a rule to make that change.

To learn more:
- read the bill