Seems all the chittering was right: The meaningful use Stage 3 proposed rule has been released prior to the annual HIMSS conference, to give all conference goers and government officials in attendance something to talk about.
The news of the rule’s release now comes as no surprise.
The feds like to make these kinds of splashes, to be the bearers of news – any kind of news – especially at big venues where they’re likely to get lots of ink and face time with those in attendance, and the supposed powers that be.
The same thing happened last year at HIMSS when officials, peppered with questions, were vehement that the ICD-10 roll out deadline would not be delayed. Only a few weeks later, federal officials had to walk that back and, untimely, wound up changing the deadline.
These are apples and oranges, I understand, but the grandiosity of the occasion (HIMSS15) means that everyone attending the conference really does need to “bring it.” Vendors, presenters, the feds. At HIMSS, to capture hearts and minds, this is a simple truth — we need to bring it no matter who “we” are.
I’m not trying to be cynical about the announcement or the timing of the proposed Stage 3 rule, but there seems to be something about the nature of its timing that seems suspect. It’s as if CMS wants the news about meaningful use to be relevant. But, as we know, on its own, it is relevant; we all know this.
It’s as if CMS is trying to secure the legacy of a failing program – where as of January 0nly 4 percent of eligible professionals had met meet Stage 2 requirements. It’s sort of like the agency, to make people talk about a once relevant product, is bursting through the HIMSS gates like a has-been celebrity and is announcing, “Don’t worry, we’ll be there.”
How could we forget?
We know you’ll be there, we know we’ll be looking to you for guidance, we know what you have to say is important to us because it impacts the very professions in which we have built our lives.
CMS will make their claims, get us to talk then they’ll ride off into the sunset like Shane.
The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) is reiterating its call to immediately shorten the reporting period for 2015, as substandard meaningful use low Stage 2 attestation numbers lag for the 2014 program year, the organization said in a statement.
According to the data recently released by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) during the Health IT Policy Committee meeting, less than 35 percent of the nation’s hospitals have met Stage 2 meaningful use requirements. While eligible professionals (EPs) have until the end of February to report their progress, just 4 percent have met Stage 2 requirements thus far, CHIME cited.
“Despite policy efforts to mitigate a disastrous program year, today’s release of participation data confirms widespread challenges with Stage 2 meaningful use,” said CHIME president and CEO Russell P. Branzell, FCHIME, CHCIO.
Roughly one in three hospitals scheduled to meet Stage 2 in 2014 had to use alternative pathways to meet MU, administrative data current through December 1 indicates.
“This trend demonstrates how vital new flexibilities were in 2014 and again, underscores the need for the same flexibility in 2015,” said Branzell. “It is imperative officials take immediate action to put this critical transformation program back on track. Shortening the time frame for MU reporting in 2015 will help to ensure the program delivers on its promise to advance the transformation of healthcare in this country.”
CHIME and several other national provider associations have repeatedly told CMS that without more program flexibility and a shortened reporting period in 2015, the future of Meaningful Use is in jeopardy.
As part of its ongoing effort to increase transparency and accountability in healthcare, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released today the first round of Open Payments data to help consumers understand the financial relationships between the healthcare industry, and physicians and teaching hospitals.
This release is part of the Open Payments program, created by the Affordable Care Act, and lists consulting fees, research grants, travel reimbursements and other gifts the health care industry, such as medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies – provided to physicians and teaching hospitals during the last five months of 2013. The data contains 4.4 million payments valued at nearly $3.5 billion attributable to 546,000 individual physicians and almost 1,360 teaching hospitals. Future reports will be published annually and will include a full 12 months of payment data, beginning in June 2015.
“CMS is committed to transparency and this is an opportunity for the public to learn about the relationships among health care providers, and pharmaceutical and device companies,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said. “This initial public posting of data is only the first phase of the Open Payments program. In coming weeks, we will be adding additional data and tools that will give consumers, researchers, and others a detailed look into this industry and its financial arrangements.”
Financial ties among medical manufacturers’ payments and health care providers do not necessarily signal wrongdoing. Given the importance of discouraging inappropriate relationships without harming beneficial ones, CMS is working closely with stakeholders to better understand the current scope of the interactions among physicians, teaching hospitals, and industry manufacturers. CMS encourages patients to discuss these relationships with their healthcare providers.
On Sept. 4, 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) published a final rule that, effective Oct. 1, 2014, implements changes to the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record Incentive Program in light of industry-wide difficulties in transitioning to EHR technology certified to the 2014 Edition EHR certification criteria (“2014 Edition CEHRT”) during calendar year 2014 for eligible professionals and fiscal year 2014 for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals. CMS makes no changes to the existing 2014 reporting periods or the requirement in future reporting periods to report for a full year. This final rule also extends Stage 2 for an additional year for those providers first demonstrating meaningful use in 2011 or 2012. Instead of starting Stage 3 in 2016, those providers will now start Stage 3 in 2017. The timeframe for Stage 3 implementation by providers that first demonstrated meaningful use after 2012 is unchanged by this final rule.
Prior to these changes, providers were required to use 2014 Edition CEHRT to demonstrate either Stage 1 or Stage 2 meaningful use in 2014. The shortened 2014 attestation periods implemented in the 2012 final rule were aimed at helping providers make the transition from 2011 Edition CEHRT to 2014 Edition CEHRT, but delays affecting the availability of, and the ability of providers to implement, 2014 Edition CEHRT meant that many providers still might be unable to demonstrate meaningful use, despite their best efforts.
To provide some additional flexibility, CMS will now provide three alternatives routes to demonstrate meaningful use in 2014 for providers facing such difficulties: (1) using 2011 Edition CEHRT only, (2) using a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition CEHRT, or (3) using 2014 Edition CEHRT for Stage 1 objectives and measures in 2014 for providers scheduled to begin Stage 2. These alternatives will also provide some flexibility in the objectives and measures that providers must meet to demonstrate meaningful use, as summarized in the chart below.
As the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) finalized a regulation granting providers additional flexibility in meeting meaningful use (MU) requirements in 2014, the final rule lacked a key provision that would ensure continued EHR adoption and MU participation, according to CHIME.
CHIME issued as statement stating that the organization is “deeply disappointed in the decision made by CMS and ONC to require 365 days of EHR reporting in 2015. This single provision has severely muted the positive impacts of this final rule. Further, it has all but ensured that industry struggles will continue well beyond 2014.”
According to the statement by CHIME, roughly 50 percent of EHs and CAHs were scheduled to meet Stage 2 requirements this year and nearly 85 percent of EHs and CAHs will be required to meet Stage 2 requirements in 2015. Most hospitals who take advantage of new pathways made possible through this final rule will not be in a position to meet Stage 2 requirements beginning October 1, 2014. This means that penalties avoided in 2014 will come in 2015, and millions of dollars will be lost due to misguided government timelines.
Nearly every stakeholder group echoed recommendations made by CHIME to give providers the option of reporting any three-month quarter EHR reporting period in 2015. “This sensible recommendation, if taken, would have assuaged industry concerns over the pace and trajectory of rulemaking; it would have pushed providers to meet a higher bar, without pushing them off the cliff; and it would have ensured the long-term vitality of the program itself. Now, the very future of Meaningful Use is in question,” said CHIME.
Guest post by Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy, Omnicell.
Section 4503 of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, enacted on Aug. 5, 1997, replaced the Medicare Volume Performance Standard (MVPS) with the sustainable growth rate (SGR) provision, a formulaic approach intended to restrain the growth of Medicare spending on physician services. The SGR formula incorporates medical inflation, the projected growth of per capita gross domestic product (GDP), projected growth in the number of Medicare beneficiaries, and changes in law or regulation.
The SGR requires Medicare each year to set a total budget for spending on physician services for the following year. If actual spending exceeds that budget, the Medicare conversion factor that is applied to more than 7,400 unique covered physician and therapy services in subsequent years is to be reduced so that over time, cumulative actual spending will not exceed cumulative budgeted (targeted) spending, with April 1, 1996, as the starting point for both.
In part because of the effective lobbying efforts of physicians, Congress has temporarily suspended application of the SGR by passing legislative overrides or “doc fixes” 17 times from 2003 to 2014. (It utilized five different pieces of legislation in 2010 alone to avoid cuts exceeding 20 percent.) As a result, actual spending has exceeded budget every year during these years. Because the annual fee update must be adjusted not only for the prior year’s variance between budgeted and actual spending but also for the cumulative variance since 1996, the next proposed update, effective April 1, 2015, is a reduction in Medicare physician fees of 20.9 percent.
Those hoping for a permanent repeal of the SGR—which is pretty much everybody, given the almost universal disdain for it—entered 2014 with a sense of optimism that this would be the year. These hopes were fueled by bipartisan and bicameral support of SGR reform proposals that emerged at the end of 2013 and significantly lower estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of the cost of a long-term doc fix.
Ultimately, the inability to figure out how to pay for the SGR repeal blocked the passage of the permanent reform bills, and Congress settled for yet another short-term patch. On March 27, 2014, the House of Representatives, under a suspension of normal rules, approved via a voice vote H.R. 4302, the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014. The bill provides a patch to the SGR that would avoid a 24.4 percent reduction to Medicare’s Physician Fee Schedule (PFS), effective April 1, 2014, replacing the scheduled reduction with a 0.5 percent increase to the PFS through Dec. 31, 2014, and a 0 percent increase for Jan. 1, 2015, through March 31, 2015. Four days later, the Senate approved H.R. 4302 on a bipartisan 64-35 vote, and President Barack Obama signed the bill into law.
Guest post by Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy,Omnicell.
In the wake of mixed initial results for the Pioneer ACO Model and Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), this is the year for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to take the feedback it has received and revamp its ACO programs.
The proposed rule for the 2015 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS), a 609-page document released on June 19, 2014, interestingly included the first installment of modifications to the ACO programs. The proposed rule devoted 52 pages to changes to the quality measures for the MSSP. Throughout the document, CMS emphasized its intent to align the numerous physician quality reporting programs, such as the Medicare EHR Incentive Program for Eligible Professionals and the MSSP, as much as possible, to reduce the administrative burden on the eligible professionals and group practices participating in these programs.
The final rule for the MSSP, issued in November 2011, presented 33 quality measures against which ACOs would be measured. These quality measures also apply to Pioneer ACOs. The measures pertain to four domains: patient/care giver experience, care coordination/patient safety, preventive health, and at-risk populations.
The proposed rule recommends the addition of the following 12 new measures:
Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule that would update fiscal year (FY) 2015 Medicare payment policies and rates for inpatient stays at general acute care and long-term care hospitals (LTCHs). This rule builds on the Obama administration’s efforts through the Affordable Care Act to promote improvements in hospital care that will lead to better patient outcomes while slowing the long-term health care cost growth.
CMS projects that the payment rate update to general acute care hospitals will be 1.3 percent in FY 2015. The rate update for long term care hospitals will be 0.8 percent. The difference in the update is accounted for by different statutory and regulatory provisions that apply to each system.
The rule’s most significant changes are payment provisions intended to improve the quality of hospital care that reduce payment for readmissions, and hospital acquired conditions (HACs). The rule also includes proposed changes to the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting (IQR) Program. The rule also describes how hospitals can comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirements to disclose charges for their services online or in response to a request, supporting price transparency for patients and the public.
“The policies announced today will assist the highly committed professionals working around the clock to deliver the best possible care to Medicare beneficiaries,” said CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “This proposed rule is geared toward improving hospital performance while creating an environment for improved Medicare beneficiary care and satisfaction.”
The proposed rule asks for public input on an alternative payment methodology for short stay inpatient cases that also may be treated on an outpatient basis, including how to define short stays. In addition, the proposed rule reminds stakeholders of the existing process for requesting additional exceptions to the two-midnight benchmark.
Guest post by Ken Perez, vice president of healthcare policy, Omnicell.
Years ago, I worked in a business unit of a large technology company that was involved in mergers, acquisitions and partnerships. In the course of our work, even when some proposed deals would fall through and some partnerships would not come together, the strategic intent of the company remained clear to us. It was like a beacon that we kept pursuing no matter what.
With healthcare-related legislation, all too often we can lose sight of the strategic intent of CMS. We immerse ourselves in the debate over details, but often fail to step back and reflect on the “end game” that one can hang their hat on. What is CMS signaling to healthcare providers?
Currently, there is bipartisan and bicameral support for permanent repeal of the unpopular, annually overridden sustainable growth rate (SGR) provision, a formulaic approach intended to restrain the growth of Medicare spending on physician services. The SGR threatens to impose a 24.4 percent reduction to the Medicare physician fee schedule (PFS) effective April 1, 2014.
Lawmakers from the House Ways and Means, House Energy and Commerce, and Senate Finance committees have worked together to consolidate separate bills that their respective committees passed toward the end of 2013. The result is H.R. 4015, the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2014, which was introduced by Rep. Michael C. Burgess, a Texas Republican and physician on Jan. 6, 2014.
In 2013, healthcare industry stakeholders, including associations, EHR vendors, practitioners and providers, raised significant concerns relating to the implementation timing of meaningful use Stage 2 and 3 criteria, including problems with interoperability, usability and regulatory failure to assess “value added” by implementation of meaningful use criteria to date. On December 6, 2013, federal officials announced that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) were proposing a new timeline for the implementation of meaningful use stage criteria for the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (“EHR”) incentive programs. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (“ONC”) further proposed a more regular approach for the update of ONC’s certification regulations.
Under the revised timeline, Stage 2 will be extended through 2016 and Stage 3 will begin in 2017 for those providers had completed at least two years in Stage 2. The goal of the proposed changes is twofold; to allow CMS and ONC to focus efforts on the successful implementation of the enhanced patient engagement, interoperability and health information exchange requirements in Stage 2, as well as evaluate data from Stage 1 and Stage 2 compliance, to date, to create and form policy decisions for Stage 3.
CMS expects to release proposed rulemaking for Stage 3 in the fall of 2014, which may further define this proposed new timeline. Stage 3 final rules would follow in the first half of 2015.
Despite CMS’s positive response to stakeholders concerns relating to the timeline for implementation of Stage 2 and Stage 3 meaningful use criteria, significant reservations continue to be enunciated, on a monthly basis, by providers at both Health information technology (“HIT”) policy committee and work group meetings. Providers continue to urge rule makers to institute consensus standards that could be adopted broadly across the healthcare industry to ensure both usability and interoperability.
In early 2013, former national coordinate Farzad Mostashar chastised electronic health record vendors for improper behavior in the marketing and sales of systems that continued to frustrate interoperability goals. This frustration with EHR vendors continues to be enunciated in HIT policy committee and work group meetings as recently as January of 2014.