Congress Passes Meaningful Use Exemption and Important Omnibus Provisions
Last week, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed S. 2425, The Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, which includes a provision addressing relief from EHR and meaningful use. Importantly, the legislation requires that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provide a blanket hardship exemption from 2015 meaningful use penalties to all providers who ask for it. The penalties would have been assessed in 2017. The language also provides for:
- A less tedious procedure to apply for meaningful use exemption
- The 90 day provision previously required is no longer applicable
- CMS will be altering their procedures for this exemption process, creating an easy interface
- By law, all hardship applications will be accepted until March 15, 2016
Without this legislation, CMS could only grant such exemptions on a case-by-case basis. AAOS had expressed repeated concern to CMS about the program (read more in a previous Advocacy Now article online here) and supported similar legislation proposed by Representative Tom Price, MD (R-GA), in November. AAOS leadership asked orthopaedic surgeons last month to contact their legislators about the issue and send a strong message that physicians need relief from this highly burdensome program (read more in a previous Advocacy Now article online here).
“We were pleased to learn that both the House and Senate passed last minute legislation that allows all providers to more easily apply for an exemption to the 2015 meaningful use Stage 2 reporting rules,” stated Thomas C. Barber, MD in a message to AAOS members. “Thank you for all of your hard work and participation in our advocacy efforts this year, especially with this important issue.”
“We recognize that the administration has repeatedly failed to offer patients, providers, and the hospital community with the resources and communication needed to provide top-notch health care,” stated Representative Renee Ellmers (R-NC) after the legislation passed the House. “By passing this bill on unanimous consent today in the House, Congress is taking a giant step in supplying relief to the provider community – and helping patients receive better, seamless care. I will continue to keep an eye out for CMS implementation and oversight of this policy to ensure that the administration is sticking to congressional intent in order to provide relief for the medical community.”
Also last week, the House and Senate passed the FY2016 omnibus appropriations package, which funds all federal agencies and programs through September 30, 2016. Included in this measure were several provisions that impact orthopaedic surgeons:
- $30 million was provided for peer-reviewed orthopaedic research program funding
- Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) operational funding was cut by $15 billion
- AHRQ funding was cut by just $30 million after the House proposed to defund the important research program altogether
- Additional funds were provided for opioid prescription drug overdose prevention
Both chambers also passed a second $650 billion package that extends a broad range of tax-related polices, including a two-year moratorium on the medical device tax.