Obama signs Meaningful Use hardship exemption bill into law

President Barack Obama signed into law Monday a bill that allows for more flexibility when applying for a hardship exemption under Meaningful Use.

The provision is part of the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, and makes it easier for eligible professionals and eligible hospitals to apply for hardship exceptions for the 2015 reporting period for 2017 payment adjustments.

The act is sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and was passed by Senate and House lawmakers on Dec. 18.

Leslie Krigstein, vice president of congressional affairs with the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, told FierceEMR via email that the new law will provide relief for the provider community and for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services by expanding the ability and easing the process of granting hardship exemptions. However, she added that despite the relief for 2015, the law does not address ongoing concerns about other elements of the program including the reporting periods, quality measures or the pass-fail construct.

"It's going to be incumbent on the provider community to work with CMS to ensure Meaningful Use program participants understand the new pathway set forth by this law and  the associated deadlines," Krigstein said. "The passage of the law was a culmination of the provider community's advocacy efforts in 2015, which I expect continue into 2016."

Frustrations over Meaningful Use, as Krigstein said, continue to grow. Many are calling for a delay to Stage 3 of the program until at least 2019 and only after 75 percent of eligible professionals and eligible hospitals have met the requirements of Stage 2 of the program.

To learn more:
- here's the law