Saying that “physicians, hospitals and healthcare providers are challenged in meeting CMS’ onerous requirements” of the electronic health records (EHR) Incentive Programs, Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC) introduced the Further Flexibility in HIT Reporting and Advancing Interoperability (Flex-IT 2) Act. Ellmers says that the bill, designated H.R. 3309, will address concerns with CMS’ proposed rules for Meaningful Use Stage 3 for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs.
Under the EHR incentive programs, providers receive incentive rewards for demonstrating the adoption of “meaningful use” of specified health information technology (HIT). The programs have three stages, each building on earlier stages; it is currently Stage 2. Ellmers said, “Only 19 percent of providers have met Stage 2 attestation requirements,” and questioned CMS’ release of proposed regulations for Stage 3 (Proposed rule, 80 FR 16732, March 30, 2015; see Stage 3 of Electronic Health Record Incentive Program proposed, Health Law Daily, March 30, 2015).
According to Ellmers, the bill has five major components.
- Delay Stage 3 Rulemaking until (a) at least 2017; or (b) merit-based incentive payment system (MIPS) final rules are released; or (c) at least 75 percent of doctors and hospitals are successful in meeting Stage 2 requirements.
- Harmonize reporting requirements for meaningful use, the physician quality reporting system, and the hospital inpatient quality reporting program to remove duplicative measurements and streamline requirements from CMS.
- Institute a 90-day reporting period for each year, regardless of stage or program experience.
- Encourage interoperability among EHR systems.
- Expand hardship exemptions, because, Ellmers says, “they are very narrowly defined under current regulations.”
The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a statement to declare its “strong support” for Flex-IT 2, saying the Act responds “to the depths of doctors’ dissatisfaction with the federal government’s Meaningful Use program.” AMA President Steven J. Stack, M.D., said, “Under Rep. Ellmers’ leadership, federal regulations would be revised to provide greater flexibility for physicians to meet the Meaningful Use requirements and ensure that Stage 3 of the program is developed in step with other efforts to modernize our nation’s health care system.”