After months of deliberation and several comments from members of Congress, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has officially released the Meaningful Use program’s final rules. CMS proposed Meaningful Use Stage 3 rules earlier this year, as well as modifications for Stage 2 of the program, but in September 2015, they were passed on to the Office of Management and Budget for review.
The final rules state that the reporting period has been shortened to 90 days for 2015 for all providers, and for new providers in 2016 and 2017, quality-reporting measures will be streamlined to avoid redundancy, and all eligible providers and hospitals will be required to attest to Stage 3 in 2018, with an option to begin attestation in 2017.
The Meaningful Use program has faced a lot of pushback over the past few years. With the stress from Stage 2, many have been concerned that Stage 3 might only aggravate providers’ issues with the program.
Last Monday, in a letter to Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC) led 116 members of the House of Representatives in requesting a delay for Stage 3. Congresswoman Ellmers was also the one to introduce the Flex-IT 2 Act earlier this year in July, which proposed delaying Stage 3, improving reporting requirements, shortening the reporting period, focusing on interoperability, and expanding hardship exemptions.
The letter stated that Stage 3 would magnify existing problems rather than improving them. “We should incentivize technology that enables interoperability and improved health outcomes rather than incentivizing technology that counts how many times a provider performs an activity.” The Representatives also felt that as the healthcare industry makes the shift to value-based care, Stage 3 should be revised to take this change into account. They pointed out that some 257,000 providers would be penalized for the 2015 attestation year, “We believe this signals a failure that is indicative of issues outside the hands of healthcare providers.”
As part of this initiative, Chairman Lamar Alexander of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and Chairman John Thune of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation also reached out to the HHS Secretary asking to implement Stage 2 modifications as soon as possible and delay finalizing Stage 3 rules until 2017. They claimed if Stage 3 is not delayed, “it will be a missed opportunity to build support among providers.”
Between Stage 1 and Stage 2, $30 billion have already been spent, and the original goal of interoperability among electronic health record systems has yet to be achieved. A Forbes article suggested that Meaningful Use is better off canceled. “It would make more sense for the federal government to cancel MU3 and take a break from tying to impose a national standard, instead of allowing one to develop organically.”
While there won’t be any further delay for Stage 3 of meaningful use as many had hoped, the final rules seem to take into account public concerns. The shortening of the reporting period to 90 days will be a relief to many providers who would otherwise have faced payment adjustments to their reimbursements.
Along with the MU rules, CMS has also finalized the 2015 Health IT Certification Criteria, some of which includes:
- Improving interoperability by adopting the latest standards for content
- Facilitating the exchange of data with better data export
- Improving patient safety with enhanced user design and information exchange
- Allowing flexibility and time for health IT developers
The final rules will be officially published in the Federal Register on October 16th, which will mark the beginning of the comment period. During this time, the public can share their thoughts on the rules with CMS.
PrognoCIS is a Meaningful Use certified electronic health record software. Learn more about our Meaningful Use Assistance program and how we can help you achieve full attestation for your practice.
Author: Apoorva Anupindi