CMS, ONC Delay Information Blocking Rule Implementation Due to COVID-19

CMS, ONC Delay Information Blocking Rule Implementation Due to COVID-19

In light of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the federal government has extended the certification implementation timelines for providers and vendors that must comply with the information blocking final rules released earlier this spring.

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT, in conjunction with the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (OIG), announced that it will “exercise enforcement discretion for three months at the end of certain ONC Health IT Certification Program compliance dates associated with the ONC Cures Act Final Rule to provide flexibility while ensuring the goals of the rule remain on track.”

The effective date for implementation is 60 days after the final rule is published, or June 30. The compliance date is November 1, 2020.

According to Lauren Riplinger, JD, vice president, policy and government affairs at AHIMA, this enforcement discretion means that ONC is not going to penalize vendors for noncompliance with respect to certain Conditions of Certification requirements for three months after November 1, “so they have some additional time to show that they are coming into compliance, but it does not apply to the provider side, so that’s important to keep in mind,” said Riplinger. “But here’s the other complex element: providers will have to comply November 1, but the rules won’t be enforced until the Office of the Inspector General Final Rule goes into effect.”

The OIG’s version of the final rule was published in the Federal Register on April 24. There will be a 60-day comment period on this rule.

For its part, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it is extending the implementation timeline for the admission, discharge, and transfer (ADT) notification Conditions of Participation (CoPs) by an additional six months.

“In the version of the rule displayed on March 9, 2020, on the CMS website, it stated these CoPs would be effective six months after the publication of the final rule in the Federal Register,” CMS announced on its website. “We have changed this in the final rule now displayed on the Federal Register to state that the new CoPs at 42 CFR Parts 482 and 485 will now be effective 12 months after the final rule is published in the Federal Register.”

Additionally, CMS finalized the Patient Access API and Provider Directory API policies for Medicare Advantage (MA), Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) effective January 1, 2021. It will also exercise enforcement discretion for six months in connection with these APIs.

For a timeline of Cures Act Final Rule highlighted regulatory dates, visit: https://www.healthit.gov/cures/sites/default/files/cures/2020-03/HighlightedRegulatoryDates.pdf

For the CMS announcement, visit: https://www.cms.gov/Regulations-and-Guidance/Guidance/Interoperability/index

For the ONC announcement, visit: https://healthit.gov/curesrule.

For the OIG announcement, visit: https://oig.hhs.gov/reports-and-publications/federal-register-notices/index.asp 

 

Mary Butler (mary.butler@ahima.org) is senior editor at the Journal of AHIMA.

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