Bill to fix 'unmanageable' meaningful use reintroduced

Meanwhile, CMS touts improved Stage 2 numbers
By Mike Miliard
11:19 AM
U.S. Capitol

"It's hard to comprehend how HHS can move forward to full-year reporting when the numbers for 90-day reporting are so low," said Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., as she reintroduced her Flex-IT Act earlier this week.

[See also: New bill aims to ease MU reporting rules]

Originally introduced in the 113th Congress, the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting Act of 2015 gives providers the option to choose any 90-day EHR reporting period to qualify for meaningful use in 2015 – as opposed to the 365-day window currently mandated by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Co-sponsored now with Congressman Ron Kind, D-Wis., the Flex-IT Act seeks to address the challenges faced by physicians, hospitals and other medical providers while still maintaining forward momentum for meaningful use.

[See also: Stage 2 'flexibility' rings hollow for many]

The full-year rule reporting period was roundly criticized by nearly every industry stakeholder. In the previous Congress, the Flex-IT Act garnered bipartisan support and had 23 cosponsors.

The reintroduction includes cosponsors Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Rep. David Scott, D-Ga.

"There is a tremendous need for our healthcare providers to have flexibility in meeting HHS' stiff deadlines, and this is precisely why I am reintroducing the Flex-IT Act," said Ellmers in a press statement. "The time constraints imposed on doctors and hospitals are inflexible and simply unmanageable — and this is evident by the dreadful Stage 2 meaningful use attestation numbers released by CMS late last year."

"This commonsense bill will give Wisconsin's health care providers some much-needed flexibility in dealing with HHS's unrealistic regulations," said Kind. "By reducing administrative burdens, our providers can streamline their operations and focus on treatment."

In the meantime, CMS has announced some better attestation numbers to start 2015. As of Jan. 1, some 19,427 new eligible providers joined the program, with 16,359 attesting to Stage 2, as reported by Medical Practice Insider.

As for eligible hospitals, 304 eligible hospitals attested to meaningful use throughout December, with 1,814 EHs having met Stage 2, according to MPI.

"We have been doing a lot to provide some flexibility and relief for providers who are struggling with their software, so it is encouraging to see how many providers are still coming in and still able to demonstrate Stage 2, which means that the software availability issue is resolving," said Elizabeth Myers, head of policy and outreach at CMS' Office of eHealth Standards and Services, speaking at a meeting of ONC's Health IT Policy Committee.

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