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EHR: Window Closes on Meaningful Use Exemptions as Congress Seeks to Make Future Compliance Easier

October has been a big month for meaningful use compliance.

Oct. 1: Deadline "Hardship" Exemption
Among the victims of the recent natural disasters are first-time participants in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program who must demonstrate meaningful use in the 2016 reporting year or face payment penalties in 2018. The good news for the roughly 171,000 Medicare-eligible professionals facing the meaningful use deadline is that hurricanes and such would be grounds for getting a "significant hardship" exemption from CMS. Unfortunately, the deadline for filing for such exemptions was Oct. 1.

Oct. 5: New Bill to Make EHR Compliance Easier

Current laws require the HHS secretary to make meaningful use requirement more “stringent” over time.

While it won’t help the providers who missed out on filing for a hardship exemption, a newly approved House committee bill would make it for providers to avoid EHR and meaningful use penalties in the future.

Explanation: Current laws require the HHS secretary to make meaningful use requirement more "stringent" over time. The thought was that raising the bar would generate significant improvements in EHR use. Unfortunately, it has not gone according to plan. And as providers struggle to meet current requirements, backing away from the keep-making-it-more-stringent mandate seems like a more prudent course of action. And that is precisely what the House bill proposes to do by giving the secretary more leeway in adopting meaningful use rules.

The problem is that the bill is unlikely to pass and is more of a symbolic gesture than an earnest attempt to ease up on EHR rules.

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