U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Pat Roberts (R-Kans.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) today wrote to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt to request feedback on legislation they drafted that would address the ongoing issues with implementation of the meaningful use program for health information technology (health IT). The draft legislation would give health care providers the flexibility they need to continue to adopt electronic health record (EHR) technology and allow CMS to account for interoperability issues.
“[W]e 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,” the senators wrote. “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.”
Specifically, the senators’ 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.
Thune, Alexander, Enzi, Roberts, and Burr are original members of the Senate’s health IT working group, Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT (REBOOT). In 2013, the senators released a white paper in which they outlined their concerns with current federal health IT policy, including increased health care costs, lack of momentum toward interoperability, potential waste and abuse, patient privacy, and long-term sustainability.
The white paper was part of a broader effort to solicit feedback from the administration and foster an ongoing conversation on improving the health IT program with the stakeholder community, including health care providers, technology vendors, and others.
Full text of the letter is below (click here to view the draft legislation):
The Honorable Sylvia M. Burwell
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C., 20201
Dear Secretary Burwell,
We write to ask your feedback on our draft changes to the Meaningful Use program. The Meaningful Use program administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) seeks to promote broad adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) by health care providers. We recognize the potential Meaningful Use of health information technology (health IT) and widespread adoption of EHRs hold to support high-quality care for patients. Therefore, since the enactment of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, we have focused on progress toward the goal of interoperability and realizing the full value of health IT for providers and, most importantly, their patients.
In 2013, we issued a report, “REBOOT: Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT,” to inform discussion about what was, and was not, working well with the adoption of EHRs. Our report closely examined the progress toward interoperability, concerns around the security of patient information, the potential for improved healthcare and reduced costs through the widespread adoption of health IT, and the long-term sustainability of health IT programs.
We received critical feedback in response to our 2013 report which has informed our work on these issues. 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. 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. We respectfully request this feedback not later than May 13, 2016.
Thank you in advance for your technical assistance on this draft legislation.
CC: Andy Slavitt, Acting Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services