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 introduced the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Regulatory Relief Act (S. 3173), legislation that would provide regulatory flexibility and hardship relief to providers and hospitals operating under the meaningful use program.
“Health information technology, especially the advancements in electronic health records, is an integral part of the future of America’s health care delivery system,” said Thune. “Our bill ensures that unnecessary regulatory burdens do not continue to negatively affect providers’ ability to leverage technology to improve patient care. I’m thankful for the administration’s willingness to provide constructive feedback and engage with Senate REBOOT members on this important piece of legislation.”
“This legislation will help ease the burden of the meaningful use program for doctors and hospitals who have told me they want to spend more time caring for patients instead of trying to comply with government regulations,” said Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander. “Specifically, it will give hospitals the same flexibility that Congress passed for doctors with overwhelming bipartisan support last April, and it will give doctors and hospitals the certainty of law that the 90-day reporting window for meaningful use proposed by CMS earlier this month is here to stay. I look forward to Senate passage of this legislation as we continue to work to pull the electronic medical records system out of the ditch, transforming it into something that doctors and hospitals look forward to rather than dread.”
“As doctors and hospitals continue the transition to effectively using Electronic Health Records, it is important that regulations do not get in the way of patient care,” said Enzi. “This legislation would ensure that health care providers can use electronic medical records as a patient care tool and continue to incentivize adoption of new technologies. The future of health information technology is bright, but we cannot let the weight of unworkable regulations burden that progress.”
“Leveraging health information technology holds the promise of improving patient care and better utilizing taxpayer funds,” said Roberts. However, the prescriptive nature of the meaningful use program has made it nearly unworkable for our doctors and hospitals. I am proud we have found some reasonable ways to provide much needed regulatory relief to the program and allow our health care professionals to spend more timing focusing on what they do best – caring for patients.”
“One-size-fits-all regulation is jeopardizing the full potential for electronic health records to improve care for North Carolinians,” said Burr. “I’m pleased to be working with my colleagues to advance common-sense policy that will provide flexibility and better support North Carolina’s hospitals and doctors in what’s most important—providing quality care to North Carolinians.”
“As a doctor, I know firsthand how bureaucratic hurdles can interfere with patient care,” said Cassidy. “This legislation will reduce those regulatory burdens on providers, allowing them to better serve patients.”
The senators’ legislation would shorten the reporting period for eligible physicians and hospitals from 365 days to 90 days, relax the all-or-nothing nature of the current program requirements, and extend the ability for eligible providers and hospitals to apply for a hardship exception from the meaningful use requirements.
In April, the senators wrote to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt to request input on a draft bill, and with the feedback they received, developed the version that was introduced today.
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.