On Friday, Congress approved legislation (S 2425) that aims to make it easier for providers to obtain hardship exemptions to Stage 2 of the meaningful use program, Health Data Management reports. The bill now heads to President Obama.
The Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would grant eligible professionals and hospitals "flexibility in applying the hardship exception for meaningful use for the 2015 EHR reporting period for 2017 payment adjustments" (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 12/21).
The legislation would create a blanket hardship exemption from 2015 meaningful use penalties, which would have been assessed in 2017. If the bill is signed into law, eligible professionals would have until March 15, 2016, to apply for an exemption, and eligible hospitals would have until April 1, 2016 (Pittman, "Morning eHealth," Politico, 12/21).
CMS currently issues exemptions on a case-by-case basis (iHealthBeat, 11/10).
According to Health Data Management, the bill includes legislative language from a separate bill (HR 3940) by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) (Health Data Management, 12/21). HR 3940 also sought to allow CMS to grant blanket hardship exemptions to eligible professionals and hospitals that are unable to attest to Stage 2 of the meaningful use program because of CMS' delay in releasing the final rule for program modifications for 2015 through 2017 (iHealthBeat, 11/10).
In a statement, Price said S 2425 would "make the hardship application process much easier for doctors to avoid penalties stemming from the administration's [delay in releasing the final modification rule], and thereby provide more time to care for patients."
Meanwhile, Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who co-sponsored HR 3940, in a statement said, "Congress is taking a giant step in supplying relief to the provider community -- and helping patients receive better, seamless care" (Health Data Management, 12/21).
This article was originially posted by iHealthBeat