Call for Action: 2015 MU Reporting Period & Flex IT Act (HR 5481)

Dear HIMSS Chapter Advocates,

On August 29, 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT issued a final rule that offered providers flexibility to meet the meaningful use timeline for 2014 by allowing the use of 2011 Edition certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT), 2014 Edition CEHRT, or a combination of 2011 Edition and 2014 Edition CEHRT for their 2014 reporting year.  However, the Final Rule also included the provision that all non-first year eligible providers are required to use 2014 Edition CEHRT for the full year in 2015.  The full 12-month reporting period for FY15 would be required to receive MU incentive payments and avoid Medicare reimbursement payment adjustments in all subsequent years.  

CMS and ONC included a full-year reporting period in 2015 despite strong recommendations from HIMSS and many other health organizations that a three-month quarterly reporting period was warranted.   HIMSS has consistently communicated that there are profound challenges associated with the transition to 2014 certified EHR technology and requirements for preparing the data to be transmitted, particularly as they relate to view/download/transmit and transitions of care. For eligible hospitals (EHs), eligible professionals (EPs), and critical access hospitals (CAHs) not in their first year of the program, the 2015 requirements for 12 months of MU reporting are daunting.  In multiple MU-related comments submitted to HHS, HIMSS has always conveyed that the MU program must be reasonable and manageable for all affected stakeholders and there must be flexibility in the timeline in order to overcome the challenges to greater success in the program.  

Since this summer, HIMSS has expressed concern that a full-year reporting period in 2015 endangers the Meaningful Use Program and its objectives of achieving nationwide adoption of interoperable electronic health records and the transformation of healthcare in America.  The slow uptake in MU Stage 2, reported struggles by vendors and providers in meeting MU Stage 2 criteria, and the looming Medicare reimbursement payment adjustments, make corrective action imperative.  The full-year reporting period is forcing EHs and EPs to make critical decisions about whether they can use 2014 CEHRT, comply with MU Stage 2 criteria, and still maintain patient safety. 

To ensure a smooth transition to MU Stage 2 and/or 2014 CEHRT, HIMSS strongly believes providers need additional time to fully implement MU Stage 2 as well as 2014 Edition CEHRT. Providers should not be required to meet new MU reporting requirements for a full year in 2015.HIMSS urges CMS to require MU reporting with 2014 CEHRT for only one three-month quarter during 2015.  A three-month reporting period would provide vendors, EPs and EHs up to nine months additional to prepare for Stage 2 and comply with 2014 CEHRT.  View the following HIMSS and other associations’ response to Response to HHS: Meaningful Use 2015 Reporting Requirements here: HIMSS Response to HHS: Meaningful Use 2015 Reporting Requirements, September 10, 2014 and Multiple Associations Send Letter to Secretary Burwell on Meaningful Use Reporting Issue September 15, 2014.

HIMSS, along with the a number of organizations, are taking this important issue to Congressional leadership meetings with the staffs of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  The majority and minority staffs of the Senate HELP and Finance Committees and the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees have also been briefed. 

The coalition’s recommended corrective action has been to support H.R. 5481, the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting Act.  H.R. 5481 was introduced September 16, 2014, by U.S. Representatives Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Jim Matheson (D-UT).  This important legislation would ensure health care providers receive the flexibility they need to successfully comply with HHS’ Meaningful Use Program in 2015.  The Flex-IT Act will allow providers to report their FY15 MU compliance for a three-month reporting period as opposed to a full year.  As we have discussed, this shortened reporting period is an important first step in helping to ensure providers remain in the Meaningful Use program and continue to use IT to support healthcare transformation. 

H.R. 5481 and easing of the 2015 reporting period are totally consistent with HIMSS 2014 Congressional Ask #1 - Minimize Disruption in our Nation's Health System Emanating from Federally-Mandated Health IT Program Changes.

Your immediate action is needed to help Congress understand the importance of this issue to the future of the MU Program and healthcare in America.  Please use the HIMSS Legislative Action Center to express your opinion on this critical issue to your members of Congress and enlist their support!

If you have questions or need information, please reach out to me, your HIMSS Chapter Advocacy Roundtable Staff Liaison, at my contact information provided below.

Warmest Regards,

Julie Brown, CAHIMS
Associate Manager, State Government Affairs

HIMSS

Office 703.562.8818

Email  jbrown@himss.org 
4300 Wilson Boulevard | Suite 250 | Arlington, VA  22203-4168
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