Meaningful Use Stage 3, alterations rules in hands of OMB

Editor's Note: A Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services spokesperson retracted initial statements made to FierceEMR that the Meaningful Use modification rule and the rule implementing Stage 3 of the program have been combined, and that the combined rule is due to be published in early fall, saying that the statements were inaccurate. "We cannot make any comments while policy is in rule writing process," the spokesperson said via email.

The Department of Health and Human Services has sent the long-awaited final rule that modifies the requirements of the Meaningful Use program for 2015-2017, as well as the rule implementing Stage 3, to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.

Providers had expressed concern that the proposed Stage 3 rule was overly ambitious and burdensome. Stage 3 is slated to commence in 2017.

The rule, which OMB received Sept. 3, changes the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program EHR reporting period in 2015 to a 90-day period aligned with the calendar year, and also aligns the reporting period in 2016 with the calendar year. In addition, this rule modifies the "patient action measures" in the Stage 2 objectives related to patient engagement, and streamlines the program by removing reporting requirements on measures which have become redundant, duplicative, or topped out through advancements in EHR function and provider performance for Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.

"We appreciate provider interest in the EHR Incentive Programs and in our final regulations in particular," CMS said in a statement. "We have just submitted the final rule to OMB for review. CMS intends to finalize a set of requirements that addresses attestation deadlines and reduces the overall reporting burden on providers and provides flexibility for the reporting periods in 2015."

OMB typically has 90 days to review a rule, although that can be extended. There is no minimum period for review. 

Industry groups have been clamoring for the rule altering the program from 2015-2017 to be released as soon as possible so that they could prepare for the changes. The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) had asked CMS on September 1 to allow medical groups to report for 2015 in either 2015 or into the first 90 days of 2016 and warning that there was insufficient time for providers to implement the rule, which will cause many to drop out of the program.

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