A bipartisan group of 27 senators signed a letter on Tuesday to Charlene Frizzera, acting CMS administrator, asking for changes to “meaningful use” requirements for the adoption of electronic health records.
“We urge you to modify you[sic] proposed definition of requirements for hospitals to become qualified as “meaningful users” of certified EHR technology. We are concerned that the CMS’ proposed rule regarding Medicare and Medicaid incentives for meaningful use of EHR technology is too restrictive,” wrote the senators, who include Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and Lamar Alexander, R-TN.
The senators worry that rural and “safety-net providers,” who cater to under-served areas, will be disadvantaged and financially penalized for an inability to comply with the rules.
Also, the senators say that the rule “goes against the intent of Congress to reward those hospitals that already have taken important steps toward implementing EHR systems” by proposing an “all-or-nothing approach in which hospitals would be required to adopt all 23 separate EHR objectives.”
The letter is also critical of the exclusion of Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) from CMS meaningful use incentive payments, and urges CMS to “provide flexibility” in the early years of the program to make sure that the certification process being debated does not exclude hospitals and physicians from needed funds.
Another area of concern for the senators is CMS’ definition of “a hospital-based physician,” saying that the definition is “quite broad and inappropriately excludes physicians practicing in outpatient centers and clinics from being eligible for EHR incentive payments.”
Finally, the senators are concerned that meaningful use regulations allows too much flexibility for states on how healthcare IT incentive payments from Medicaid. “We recognize that Medicaid is a state-federal program, but there should be some direction given to states…so that [payments] can be used…to support HIT implementation. If the incentive payments included in existing reimbursements, it will be harder to track the payments and the results of this investment in HIT.”