CMS timeline disrupted, new ruling proposed

Health care providers are continuing with their plans to reach the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' requirements for stage 2 of meaningful use in regard to electronic health record programs. Incentives are giving health care organizations additional reasons to attest to stage 2 beyond the benefits of providing patients with better care. However, due to a recently proposed ruling and July statistics, it seems that providers are having difficulties with stage 2 meaningful use attestation.

The new proposed ruling
The rule proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services and the CMS would change the definition of certified EHR technology, as well as the meaningful use stages timeline and the requirements for reporting clinical quality measures. Currently, under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, failure to attest to stage 2 of meaningful use after completing stage 1 will result in financial penalties for hospitals and other eligible providers. The proposed rule stated that organizations can use 2011-certified EHR technology in order to attest to stage 2. The rule also stated that, based on information gathered, EHR products were certified later than anticipated, and this will affect the time available for providers to effectively deploy 2014 CEHRT, which was required for demonstrating stage 2 of meaningful use.

Many health care organizations are asking for clarity and flexibility on deadlines, eligibility and stage 3 of meaningful use according to CIO magazine. It reported that the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, the Medical Group Management Association, the Health Information and Management Systems Society and the American Medical Association are calling for a 90-day reporting period for attestation in 2015, while the current rule calls for the entire year.

Meaningful use statistics
Right now, many hospitals are attesting to meaningful use, which shows the program is working. According to Government Health IT, the CMS paid $24.4 billion in incentives during the first 10 days of July. The current number of Medicare-eligible providers has reached 317,294, while Medicaid's EPs have climbed to 157,890. Additionally, the number of hospitals that fulfill meaningful use stage 1 requirements is at 4,737.

However, Government Health IT reported that only eight hospitals and fewer than 1,000 providers have attested to stage 2 of meaningful use. These numbers alone suggest that the attestation of stage 2 is not going according to the CMS' original plan.

To combat the slowdown, the new proposed ruling will allow health care providers to qualify for incentive payments under Medicaid for adopting, implementing or upgrading to 2014-edition CEHRT. This will remove incentives from providers that use a combination of 2011- and 2014-edition CEHRT. Instead, providers who use this combination of CEHRTs will need to attest that they were not able to fully implement only the 2014 edition, otherwise they will be disqualified. The CMS hopes this decision will speed up adopting processes and that it can gather more information regarding meaningful use stages and their timelines. For now, providers need to wait to see if the proposed ruling passes and they should continue with their plans.