Flex-IT Act Reintroduced to New Congress Seeking Flexible Deadlines

The Flexibility in Health IT Reporting (Flex-IT) Act of 2015 has been reintroduced to Congress by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC). The legislation, which was first introduced in the 113th Congress, seeks to relax deadlines that providers must meet to comply with HHS’ Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive or Meaningful Use program.  The bill was introduced with bipartisan support. Co-sponsors for the legislation include Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn), Rep. GT Thompson (R-Pa), Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis) and Rep. David Scott (D-Ga).

Meaningful Use

The EHR incentive program was designed to encourage providers to make the switch from paper to electronic records. Specifically, the program requires providers to show they are improving health care delivery with “meaningful use” of EHRs and systems. Initially, by 2014, all eligible providers, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals were required to use 2014 edition certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) in order to meet meaningful use standards under the program. However, system malfunctions and extensions pushed back compliance deadlines. A September 2014 Final rule (79 FR 52910, September 4, 2014) altered the timetable allowing providers additional time to meet program requirements. However, Ellmers made efforts in 2014 to further relax the timeline with an earlier version of the Flex-IT act.

Flex-IT

The legislation would alter the reporting requirements for meaningful use by allowing providers to choose any three month quarter as a reporting period to show meaningful use—instead of the current full year reporting period. According a release from Ellmers, the “shortened reporting period would be an important step in addressing the challenges faced by doctors, hospitals and other medical providers while avoiding threats to patient safety due to the rigid reporting period currently in place.” According to Ellmers, the legislative step is important because as of December 2014, CMS reports confirmed low compliance rates among providers with only 4 percent of physicians and less than 35 percent of hospitals reporting that they had achieved Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements.