Legislators urge shortening the 2016 meaningful use reporting period in an AOA-supported move that would provide doctors with greater flexibility in meeting strict health IT requirements.
Jointly introduced last month by six U.S. House members and two U.S. senators, H.R. 5001/S. 2822, the Flexibility in Electronic Health Record Reporting Act, would allow the use of a 90-day reporting period for the 2016 EHR Incentive Programs, as opposed to the one-year period currently required by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
"The continued procrastination by CMS to provide relief from the tough and inflexible deadlines within the meaningful use program has prompted myself and Sen. (Rob) Portman (R-Ohio) to rally our colleagues and take action," said bill sponsor, Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-North Carolina), in a news release.
"While provider participation in this program is important, as it allows for more seamless care of patients, it's clear that our medical community is eager for relief but that CMS is in no hurry to provide it."
Advocating for meaningful use changes
AOA has long advocated for reasonable changes in the meaningful use program that would allow doctors of optometry to use EHRs in practical ways that benefit their patients, and as recently as June 2015, submitted letters to CMS on suggested improvements. Those letters stressed the importance of 90-day reporting periods through 2017-2018 as proposals to eliminate the timeline seemed out of step with previous CMS adjustments.
Although CMS' final rule—announced in October—granted doctors the option to choose any 90-day reporting period in 2015, the rule's delayed release meant doctors had no time to prepare to meet requirements at year's end because the revised requirements weren't provided until fewer than 90 days remained in 2015. As a result, AOA advised members to apply for a hardship exception for "extreme and uncontrollable circumstances" to avoid a 3% penalty on all Medicare medical eye care claims in 2017.
The AOA fully supports legislation that would take the burden off of doctors participating in the EHR Incentive Programs, and will work to ensure this legislation passes.
Congress’ Sept. 15 deadline for bill language passes with lawmakers backing key guardrails that AOA’s advocates say must be in place for a workable benefit. Yet, price tag developments may forestall efforts.
A September deadline means now is the time for AOA members to act. Attend an upcoming special advisory group session for the latest legislative information and contact your members of Congress.
The AOA continues its support of optometry students, advocating for a temporary suspension of student loan debt due to the pandemic, as well as a long-term avenue toward loan forgiveness and repayment.