In September, Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, R-North Carolina, introduced a bill called the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting Act of 2014 (Flex-IT). For the most part, the healthcare industry supports this bill as it eases the burden of reporting on meaningful use (MU) to a 90-day period instead of a full year.

But will it actually fix what many believe to be a complex system? Let’s take a look at where things stand with the bill.

History of Flex-IT

When Health and Human Services (HHS) revealed its plans for reporting MU would cover all 12 months and not just 90 days, fear swelled in the healthcare industry.

Russell P. Branzell, chief executive officer of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, in a press statement responding to the new rules for meaningful use said: “This means that penalties avoided in 2014 will come in 2015, and millions of dollars will be lost due to misguided government timelines, now, the very future of meaningful use is in question.”

Branzell is not alone when pleading for relief of the onerous regulations of 2015 MU. Other influential groups that want on record for Flex-IT include:

“We’ve raised numerous concerns about where meaningful use is going. If significant changes are not coming in the program, I think the program risks a lot. We could see, frankly, failure of the program,” policy advisor Robert Tennant said.

Flex-IT to Fix IT

Ellmers wasn’t deterred. When introducing the bill, the Congresswoman said the program had important provisions that would help usher healthcare providers into the digital age. She added that the negative feedback wasn’t warranted.

“Instead of working with doctors and hospitals, HHS is imposing rigid mandates that will cause unbearable financial burdens on the men and women who provide care to millions of Americans,” Ellmer said. “Dealing with these inflexible mandates is causing doctors, nurses, and their staff to focus more on avoiding financial penalties and less on their patients.”

Ellmers went on to explain that only 9 percent of the hospitals in the United States and 1 percent of eligible providers successfully meet the Stage 2 requirements for meaningful use with their 2014 edition Certified Electronic Health Record.

Ellmers further argued that if providers can choose any 90-day period in 2015 for providers to show that the requirements for meaningful use are met, “hundreds of thousands of providers” would have a chance of meeting Stage 2 MU requirements without a problem.

The act was then dubbed the Flex-IT Act, which “will provide the flexibility providers need while ensuring that the goal of upgrading their technologies still being managed,” Ellmers said.

Bill Does Not Pass, But It’s Back

By the time Congress recessed at the end of 2014, the bill hadn’t passed. However, when Congress reconvened in January, Ellmers reintroduced the Flex-IT act with a few more supporters, including Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee; David Scott, D-Georgia; and Glenn Thompson, R-Pennsylvania.

“There is a tremendous need for our healthcare providers to have flexibility in meeting HHS’ stiff deadlines, and this is precisely why I am reintroducing the Flex-IT Act,” Ellmers said. “The time constraints imposed on doctors and hospitals are inflexible and simply unmanageable — and this is evident by the dreadful Stage 2 meaningful use attestation numbers released by CMS late last year.”

The bill remains in committee, but the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced in late January that they were exploring changes to 2015 Meaningful Use that includes the following:

  • Alter parts of the program to reduce complexity and providers’ reporting burdens, as well as to match long-term goals;
  • Give eligible hospitals more time to incorporate 2014 Edition certified EHR software into their workflows by realigning EHR reporting periods to the calendar year; and

According to CMS, the new proposals will be announced in March. It is unclear when Congress will vote on Ms. Ellmer’s Flex-IT act. Nevertheless, it seems now, that one way or another, the MU certification will have the discussion in Congress it needs.





abeo Management Corporation (abeo) serves as a leading source of revenue cycle management and practice management with a specialization in anesthesia. The company leverages its people, processes, and software to serve independent practices, surgery centers, hospitals and healthcare systems with a scope of services that include billing, coding, transcription, practice management, and business consulting.

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