Reintroduced FLEX-IT Act looks to shorten 2015 MU reporting window

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), flanked by two Republican and two Democrat co-sponsors, has reintroduced H.R. 270, the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting (FLEX-IT) Act, to shorten the Meaningful Use attestation period in 2015 from 365 to 90 days.

Ellmers (pictured), who was one of the co-sponsors of the bill in the last legislative session, reiterated the need to shorten the attestation timeframe in a statement released Jan. 12:

"There is a tremendous need for our healthcare providers to have flexibility in meeting HHS' stiff deadlines, and this is precisely why I am reintroducing the Flex-IT Act," Ellmers said. "The time constraints imposed on doctors and hospitals are inflexible and simply unmanageable--and this is evident by the dreadful Stage 2 Meaningful Use attestation numbers released by CMS late last year. It's hard to comprehend how HHS can move forward to full-year reporting when the numbers for 90-day reporting are so low--particularly when noting that half of the physicians in our country are now facing costly fines."

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), a co-sponsor of the bill, noted in the joint statement that the current regulation requiring a full year of reporting was "unrealistic."

Only 4 percent of eligible professionals and less than 35 percent of eligible hospitals met the Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements in 2014.

Many stakeholders have urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to shorten the reporting period for 2015, including lawmakers who sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell last month calling for the change. So far, HHS has opted to retain the full year reporting requirement, although it tried to boost the attestation numbers by extending hospitals' attestation deadline to Dec. 31. CMS has already announced that beginning this month 257,000 physicians will be penalized for failing to meet Meaningful Use in 2014.

Industry stakeholders quickly praised the reintroduction of the FLEX-IT Act. The American Hospital Association called the shorter reporting period a "necessary adjustment" for hospitals already struggling to comply with the Meaningful Use requirements. Meanwhile, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives called the bill the beginning of a "much-needed course correction."

To learn more:
- read Ellmers' and Kind's statement
- here's the AHA's statement (.pdf)
- check out CHIME's announcement