Legislation introduced to Congress on Tuesday would require that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services allow eligible hospitals and providers looking to attest to Meaningful Use in 2015 a 90-day window to do so, as opposed to a 365-day reporting period.
The legislation--the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting (Flex-IT) Act, introduced by Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) (pictured) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah)--would nullify the Meaningful Use flexibility final rule recently published by CMS and give attesters the option to choose any three-month quarter for EHR reporting next year to qualify for Meaningful Use.
The Flex-IT Act comes as outcry over that final rule has reached a fever pitch. In a letter sent to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Monday, 17 major healthcare stakeholders--including the American Hospital Association, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), the American Medical Association and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and others--said a year-round Meaningful Use reporting period would "complicate the forward trajectory" of the electronic health record incentive program.
CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell, in a statement issued shortly after the bill's introduction, said the Flex-IT Act would help hundreds of thousands of providers meet Stage 2 of Meaningful Use without being rushed.
"The misstep by officials to require a full year of reporting using 2014 Edition certified EHR Technology in 2015 puts many eligible hospitals and physicians at risk of not meeting Meaningful Use next year and hinders the intended impact of the program," Branzell said. "To date, only 143 hospitals have met Stage 2, representing a very small percentage of the 3,800 hospitals required to be Stage 2-ready within the next 14 days."
Ellmers, in announcing the legislation, said that HHS' inflexibility on the final rule is causing providers to put more of an emphasis on not being penalized financially than actually providing quality patient care.
"The Meaningful Use program has many important provisions that seek to usher our healthcare providers into the digital age," Ellmers said in a statement. "But instead of working with doctors and hospitals, HHS is imposing rigid mandates that will cause unbearable financial burdens on the mean and women who provide care to millions of Americans."