As many of you may have heard, Congresswoman Renee Ellmers introduced the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting (Flex-IT) Act of 2014 to the U.S. House of Representatives on September 16, 2014. This act would over-ride the CMS final rule requiring a full (365 day) year of EHR meaningful use reporting and has prompted a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm amongst administrators and providers across all of America. The problem is that there is no clear picture as to when this legislation will be voted on or if it will pass.
The legislation was introduced because so many in the healthcare industry feel that it was very short sighted of CMS to pass the rule for this year and require a full year of reporting in 2015. The legislation introduced by representative Elmers (R-NC) along with James Matheson (D-UT) means that the legislation is going around CMS who which is steadfast on keeping 2015 to a full reporting year for EHR meaningful use. Instead, the Flex-IT Act would seek to “permit the use of a 3-month quarter EHR reporting period to demonstrate meaningful use ……. , without regard to the payment year or the stage of meaningful use criteria involved.”
There were several articles published right after the announcement but little has followed.
The disappointment for hospitals is that the representatives took their recess without voting on the bill. Hospitals start their reporting year on the federal government fiscal calendar starting on October 1st. For practices that have providers who will attest during the 2015 Calendar year, it would be better to know sooner than later. Decisions on implementing challenging modules associated with Meaningful Use Stage 2 could be delayed until there are perhaps enhancements made to the software that will not cripple the workflow of the practice is one example of how knowing soon would be useful. For some practices it could even mean postponing their upgrade to the 2014 Certified version of the EHR software, who are reluctantly upgrading in spite of issues with the release just so that they would be ready by the 2015 reporting year.
In a quest to get some answers, I found out that the legislation for The Flex-IT Act of 2014 has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration. I spoke directly to the Ways and Means Committee Office and they are in recess until mid- to late-November and there is no way to tell when the bill will be voted on. It is under the discretion of the Chairman as to when they vote on this. This is proposed legislation and it is hard to estimate what level of support there is for the bill. However, it would have wide-spread effect considering that, according to a statement from Ellmers’ office, “To date, only 9 percent of our nation’s hospitals and 1 percent eligible healthcare professionals have demonstrated the ability to meet Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements using the 2014 Edition Certified Electronic Health Record Technology.”
What that means to you as an administrator or provider is that you must move forward with upgrades and workflow decisions but keep in mind that there may be a reprieve in the end. This is not a proposed rule by CMS so there isn’t a comment period. Even so, I would encourage doctors and healthcare administrators to contact their state representatives to give them your feedback. If the bill is passed, CMS will be mandated to permit a 3 month reporting period for meaningful use of EHR in 2015 instead of requiring a full year of reporting.
Here are a couple of additional links to articles about the proposed legislation to shorten the reporting period for Meaningful Use in 2015. Also included is a link to the discussion draft of the bill.