‘Meaningful Use’ Guidelines Under Fire From RepublicansNextGov: Recently released requirements for physicians and hospitals to earn cash rewards for the "meaningful use" of electronic medical records are not tough enough to justify an investment of billions of dollars, House Republicans said Tuesday. "In a hearing of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, officials from the Health and Human Services Department defended the recently released standards. The regulations were designed to accommodate diverse communities looking to move away from paper-based records systems, they said." One health department official said, "We set the bar where we felt it was appropriate and also signaled for future stages that we would be setting the bar much higher" (Long, 7/20).
The Hill: "Much less is expected of healthcare providers receiving subsidies than what [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)] had initially proposed," said Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif., the top Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Republican. "The final regulations represent a missed opportunity to improve patient care and reduce waste" (Lillis, 7/20).
CongressDaily has background: "As authorized in the 2009 stimulus package, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stands to distribute $27 billion over the next 10 years for the electronic health records, and qualified Medicare and Medicaid physicians stand to receive up to $44,000 and $63,750, respectively, to purchase the new technologies. Physicians not using electronic records up to CMS standards by 2015 are subject to penalties in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement" (McCarthy, 7/21).
David Blumenthal, the national coordinator for the federal government's health IT efforts, added, according to Modern Healthcare, "We have every intent in the next rulemaking, in 2013, to require much more robust exchange as a feature of meaningful use" (DoBias, 7/20).
Meanwhile, "To make matters more interesting, the meaningful-use obstacle course is still being assembled, even though several players already are running on the track unaware of where the first hurdle will be placed," Modern Healthcare reports in a separate story. "This is because, to qualify as a meaningful user, a physician must utilize a 'certified' electronic health record, but-until last week-no one knew what the certification criteria would be. Those criteria were released July 13 in 228 pages of companion rules to the meaningful-use requirements and the final rules that were released June 18 on a temporary program that established a process for an organization to become an Office of the National Coordinator-authorized testing and certification body. At least one organization-the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology-had sought the ONC's blessing to become an authorized testing body" (Robeznieks, 7/20). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.