House Bill Would Shorten EHR Reporting Period

A bill introduced in Congress this week would shorten the 2015 reporting period for the US Department of Health and Human Services' Electronic Health Records incentive program.

Doctors and hospitals hoping the US Department of Health and Human Services will amend its 2015 reporting requirements for Electronic Health Records may get help in the form of legislation.

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) this week introduced HR 5481, “The Flexibility in Health IT Reporting Act of 2014.” The bill would reverse HHS’s decision to keep a full-year reporting period for its EHR incentive in 2015, replacing it with a 90-day reporting period. Providers have asked for asked for a shorter reporting period because they say the vast majority of doctors and hospitals aren’t prepared to meet Stage 2 Meaningful Use standards by their deadlines.

“The Meaningful Use Program has many important provisions that seek to usher our healthcare providers into the digital age,” Ellmers said, in a press release. “But instead of working with doctors and hospitals, HHS is imposing rigid mandates that will cause unbearable financial burdens on the men and women who provide care to millions of Americans.”

Earlier this week, a coalition of medical organizations sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell asking her to use the 90-day reporting standard. The organizations said only 9% of hospitals and 1% of healthcare professionals have met Stage 2 requirements to date. The remaining providers will need to meet Stage 2 standards by Oct. 1 or Jan. 1 in order to qualify for the next round of funds from the multi-year incentive program.

Ellmers called the low rates of Stage 2 implementation “alarming,” but blamed the troubles on government bureaucracy and mandates.

“Dealing with these inflexible mandates is causing doctors, nurses, and their staff to focus more on avoiding financial penalties and less on their patients,” she said.

If Ellmers’ bill becomes law, providers could choose any three-month period in 2015 as their reporting period. HHS used a 90-day reporting period for 2014.

The bill has attracted 3 co-sponsors, including one Democrat, Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah. Many of the organizations joined the letter to Burwell have also come out in support of Ellmers’ bill.

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