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Flex-IT 2: Another crack at changing meaningful use reporting requirements

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) influenced some change in her previous attempt to make things simpler for providers trying to keep up with meaningful use reporting requirements. So she’s trying again.

H.R. 3309, the Further Flexibility in HIT Reporting and Advancing Interoperability Act — or Flex-IT 2 — introduced by Ellmers on July 30, consists of five principles aimed at altering parts of the meaningful use program, including stage 3. The bill follows up the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting (Flex-IT) Act, which Ellmers proposed in Sept. 2014 and reintroduced this January. Later in January, CMS announced the EHR reporting period for 2015 would be shortened from the full year to 90 days, matching a major provision of the first Flex-IT bill.

The following five measures are the foundation of the Flex-IT 2 bill proposal:

  • Delay meaningful use stage until 2017, unless 75% of physicians and hospitals attest to stage 2 or until Merit-based Incentive Payment System rules are finalized
  • Unify reporting requirements and remove overlapping criteria required under programs such as meaningful use, the Physician Quality Reporting System and Inpatient Quality Reporting
  • A 90-day meaningful use reporting period for each stage and year of the program
  • Promote more interoperability between EHR systems
  • Broaden the definition of meaningful use hardship exceptions

Citing a National Center for Health Statistics data brief from Jan. 2014, Ellmers said 19% of providers and 48% of hospitals have attested to meaningful use stage 2. In a statement, she interpreted those figures as “a clear sign that physicians, hospitals and healthcare providers are challenged in meeting CMS’ onerous requirements.” Ellmers hopes the proposed adjustments help more providers succeed in attesting to meaningful use and helps them avoid financial penalties for failing meaningful use audits. Ellmers also believes the bill, if passed, will help healthcare providers share information and allow them to focus more on patient care.

In a statement announcing the American Medical Association’s support of the bill, President Steven J. Stack, M.D., said if it’s passed, “federal regulations would be revised to provide greater flexibility for physicians to meet the meaningful use requirements.” The American Academy of Family Physicians and College of Healthcare Information Management Executives are also in favor of Flex-IT 2.

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