U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, issued the following statement regarding the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) release of a proposed rule this evening to allow providers and hospitals to use Electronic Health Records (EHR) certified in 2011 to qualify for the meaningful use program:
“Since last year, I have been calling for CMS to listen to the providers and hospitals that are facing challenges in meeting unrealistic deadlines and rules in the EHR meaningful use program. In September, I worked with fifteen of my Senate colleagues to highlight the problems of tight deadlines and lack of vendor readiness to CMS. I am pleased the administration has finally listened and I look forward to working with CMS and stakeholders to ensure that transitions to electronic health records are done effectively and efficiently.”
On September 24, 2013, members of the informal Senate EHR working group, which include Senators Thune, Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), wrote to CMS calling for a one-year extension for health care providers to complete the second stage of the EHR incentive program for those that need the additional time while allowing providers who are ready to attest to Stage 2 in 2014 to be able to do so. In effect, that is exactly what CMS’s announcement today will do.
Prior to announcing this policy change today, over 500,000 hospitals and physicians were required to upgrade their existing technology to demonstrate new standards of “meaningful use” in order to be eligible for the corresponding incentive payments by the end of 2014. The vendors were under tremendous time pressures to ensure their products are certified for the 2014 criteria and have sufficient time to upgrade their products for each hospital or physician client. That time schedule would have further widened the digital divide for small and rural providers who lack the resources of large practices and may not be vendors’ top priorities. That time pressure raised questions about whether such a short period for Stage 2 is in the best long-term interest of the program. In order to achieve interoperability, it is critical that Stage 2 be as successful as possible.Next year, CMS will require all providers and hospitals have the 2014-edition products in order to receive bonus payments through the meaningful use program.