Malfunction of CMS’ Meaningful Use Attestation Website Causes Concern

Only days after a bill to alleviate Meaningful Use program penalties was introduced in the House of Representatives, a malfunction of CMS’ Meaningful Use Registration and Attestation website has reportedly caused further problems for health care providers attempting to register before the October 1, 2014 deadline.

Legislation

On Tuesday, September 16, 2014, Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC) introduced “The Flexibility in Health IT Reporting (Flex-IT) Act of 2014” (H.R. 5481). The Flex-IT Act would ensure that health care providers receive the flexibility they need to successfully comply with HHS’ Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program by allowing them to report their Health IT upgrades in 2015 through a 90-day reporting period as opposed to a full year.

Meaningful Use Program

The $30 billion EHR Incentive Program was established by CMS to encourage physicians and hospitals to switch from paper records to EHRs. The program requires providers to show they are improving health care delivery with “meaningful use” of EHRs and systems. While most Medicare providers have installed the electronic systems, beginning in 2015, those who have not will be penalized with reduced reimbursement.

Malfunction

On August 29, 2014, CMS published a final rule that allows physicians to show they are meeting the program’s goals with older versions of EHR software, if they can prove they have done so by October 1, 2014 (see CMS Final Rule bends timelines and standards for Certified EHR technology, September 2, 2014). Physicians, however, that have attempted to attest to meaningful use on CMS’ Registration and Attestation website have been informed that the website is inoperable and will not be functional until mid-October. That means they will be unable to meet the October 1 deadline, and CMS may withhold 1.0 percent of their 2015 Medicare payments.

Congressional Concern

On September 19, 2014, Ellmers and Jim Matheson (R-Utah) jointly sent a letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner expressing their concern that these providers may be penalized, even though they are acting in good faith to meet CMS deadlines. The letter states: “We hope this oversight can be quickly and effectively addressed by CMS. As such, we request an administrative delay in the October 1, 2014, deadline for those attempting to attest for the first time in 2014. Furthermore, we urge you to take immediate action by shortening the 2015 EHR reporting period to 90 days. In light of the respite your agency granted itself, it is only fair to afford the nation’s healthcare providers with equal flexibility to meet the Stage 2 requirements.”

CMS has not yet issued a formal response to the malfunctioning website or the letter.