New EHR bill would tweak MU requirements

Aims to ease regulatory penalties

A newly proposed bill garnering the support of several medical associations would establish exemptions and amend certain penalties for Medicare providers struggling to attest to meaningful use. 

The Electronic Health Records Improvement Act, sponsored by Representative Diane Black (R-Tenn.), would aim to reduce the regulatory burden for Medicare providers and amend meaningful use requirements to better accommodate their resources and needs, officials say. 
 
Bill provisions outline amendments to the 2009 HITECH Act, which established financial incentives for providers demonstrating meaningful adoption of electronic health records. By the end of February, CMS had disbursed an estimated $12.3 billion in EHR incentive payments to providers and hospitals. The bill would create a hardship exemption for small physician practices and physicians nearing retirement age who would otherwise struggle with the financial costs of implementing an EHR system. 
 
A bill provision also seeks to shorten the reporting period for Medicare EHR payment adjustment applications.
 
Further, meaningful use Stage 2 also requires that eligible providers report on at least nine approved clinical quality measures. The bill would instead allow certain providers to participate in specialty registries which, proponents say, offer real-time data.
 
Additionally, bill provisions would seek to further involve rural healthcare providers in the EHR Incentive Program by now defining them as eligible providers. 
 
Lastly, the EHR Improvement Act would create a more formal appeals process for providers who receive penalties and wish to appeal CMS' decision. 
 
"We commend you for reintroducing the Electronic Health Records Improvements Act legislation, which if enacted, would implement much needed reports to the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records Incentive Program, ensuring small practices are better prepared to adopt EHRs," read a March 19 letter to Rep. Black signed by 21 medical associations and groups, including MGMA, American College of Surgeons, American Osteopathic Association and the National Coalition of Healthcare Providers.  
 
The bill has been referred to House committees.