Proposed legislation increases Meaningful Use exemptions

A new bill introduced in the House would ease the pain for some eligible professionals struggling to implement electronic health record systems in accordance with Meaningful Use incentive program requirements.

The bill (H.B. 1309), entitled the "Electronic Health Record Improvement Act" and introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R. Tenn.) late last month, would create two new exceptions for eligible professionals in the Medicare incentive program. One would allow solo practitioners to qualify for a hardship exemption from the program based on lack of capital and resources; the other would create a three year retirement exemption for physicians who are eligible for Social Security by 2015.

The bill also softens other requirements of the Meaningful Use incentive program, such as allowing physician specialists to meet the quality measures by participating in  specialty-led registries; including rural health clinics under the definition of "eligible professional" in order to participate in the program; and establishing a formal appeals process that providers could utilize before penalties are imposed.

The bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees, according to a recent Bloomberg BNA article.

It's not the first time that the Meaningful Use program has been modified since its enactment. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has added several hardship exemptions, most recently last fall to recognize potential conflicts between the e-prescribing program and the Meaningful Use program.

The program also has been tweaked to allow additional providers, such as behavioral health physicians and some children's hospitals, to participate.

To learn more:
- here's the bill
- read the Bloomberg BNA article