GOP Senators issue draft legislation to 'reboot' meaningful use

The bill would 'advance the use of EHRs' by shortening reporting period from 365 days to 90 and end all-or-nothing approach.
By Mike Miliard
11:23 AM

Senators John Thune, R-South Dakota

A group of Republican senators who have been looking to "reboot" meaningful us since 2013 released new draft legislation this week they say aims to make the incentive program work better for providers and taxpayers.

U.S. Senators John Thune, R-South Dakota, Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, Richard Burr, R-North Carolina and Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana – all of whom voted against the 2009 ARRA law that helped establish meaningful use through the HITECH Act – wrote this week to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell and CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, looking for feedback on the bill.

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The draft legislation would shorten the reporting period for eligible physicians and hospitals from 365 days to 90 days, which would give providers more time to implement EHR systems, relax the all-or-nothing nature of the current program requirement, and extend the ability for eligible providers and hospitals to apply for a hardship exemption from the meaningful use requirements.

"These policies seek to provide CMS with the tools and guidance necessary to advance the use of EHRs as part of utilizing health IT to the benefit of patients in a manner that protects the significant taxpayer investment in our nation’s health care system," the legislators write.

Thune, Alexander, Enzi, Roberts, and Burr are original members of the Senate’s health IT working group, known as Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT, or REBOOT.

Back in 2013, they published a white paper outlining their complaints about lack of momentum toward interoperability, patient privacy concerns, EHRs' potential to enable fraud and abuse and other concerns about federal health IT policy.

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"We received critical feedback in response to our 2013 report which has informed our work on these issues," the senators wrote to Burwell and Slavitt this week. "We also engaged with stakeholders including health IT developers, providers, and patient-focused organizations to assess their experiences with the meaningful use program, as well as their concerns with the state of health IT, specifically EHRs, over the years.

"In response to this feedback we have identified a few key policy changes outlined in the enclosed draft legislation, and we respectfully request feedback as part of our continued constructive dialogue on these issues."