Senators Introduce Meaningful Use Relief Bill

A group of Republican Senators are resurrecting an older piece of legislation targeted at reducing certain regulatory burdens built into the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program. On November 2, they reintroduced the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Regulatory Relief Act (S. 2059), which is similar to a bill introduced in July of 2016, then called S. 3173.

The introduction of the new legislation follows a series of recent studies and calls from provider groups to embark on ways to prevent physician burnout associated with time spent on documentation.

“The American Medical Association says that for every hour doctors spend with patients, they spend two hours on electronic health records and desk work,” said Lamar Alexander (R-TN), one of the bill’s cosponsors, in a written statement. “This legislation will help reduce the regulatory burden doctors and hospitals have faced under the Meaningful Use program so they can instead focus on treating patients. I encourage the Senate to pass this bill to take a step towards getting our electronic health records system out of the ditch.”

The new bill would attempt to codify meaningful use’s 90-day reporting period. It would also reverse the part of the existing law that makes the program more stringent over time.

Other modifications would include:

  • Removing the “100 percent is passing” approach to meaningful use, which creates an unfair burden of compliance. Missing a threshold by a small amount or failure to meet an individual part of an objective results in failure, despite good faith efforts.
  • This bill would create a new threshold that requires eligible hospitals to meet no more than 70 percent of the required metrics to satisfy meaningful use requirements.
  • Recognizing the early stages of implementation of the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, it would direct the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider forthcoming recommendations from the US Government Accountability Office with respect to improving EHR requirements for physicians.

Click here for a summary document of S. 2059, and here for legislative text.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at The Journal of AHIMA.

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