Washington Debrief: Senators Concerned with Health IT Progress

March 10, 2015
Five Senators of the 2013 “REBOOT” report reiterated their concerns with the implementation of the meaningful use program and the continued lack of interoperability across electronic health record (EHR) systems in a new blog post last week.

Washington Debrief: Senators Concerned with Health IT Progress

Top News 

REBOOT” Senators Voice Concern with Health IT Programs

Key Takeaway: Five Senators of the 2013 “REBOOT” report reiterated their concerns with the implementation of the meaningful use program and the continued lack of interoperability across electronic health record (EHR) systems in a new blog post last week. 

Why It Matters: The Republican Senators criticized the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s (ONC) execution of the meaningful use program, and questioned the value delivered from the program that has received more than $28 billion in taxpayer funds. 

The authors question whether the meaningful use program has achieved its goals of increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and improving care quality. Further, the Senators cite the lack of interoperability as a major impediment to success of the meaningful use program, despite the widespread adoption of electronic records.  

While commending the renewed focus of ONC under Dr. Karen DeSalvo’s leadership, the Senators criticize the administration’s interoperability plan, Connecting Health and Care for the Nation: A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap, saying that it lacks necessary specifics and actionable steps to enable robust information exchange. The “Rebooters” express concern about the absence of cost considerations and the lack of measurement mechanisms in ONC’s Interoperability Roadmap, which is now open for public comment.  

The group of Senators, including John Thune (R-SD), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) authored the a white paper in April 2013 entitled, “REBOOT: Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT,” an early demonstration of Congressional interest in the federal government’s implementation of health IT projects, including Meaningful Use and Health Information Exchanges (HIEs). 

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), chaired by Senator Alexander, had scheduled a hearing for last Thursday on the subject of health IT, but the hearing was postponed due to weather. 

Legislation & Politics 

Provider, Hospital Groups Send Letters to CMS and Congressional Leaders Expressing Differing Views of ICD-10 Implementation

Key Takeaway: Physicians and hospitals appear to be on opposite ends of the ICD-10 debate as a pair of letters went to congressional leadership last week. Physicians are asking for more time and flexibility, meanwhile more than twenty hospitals urged Congress to maintain the current transition deadline. 

Why It Matters: With news that Congress will have to pass yet another Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) patch by the end of March, Washington observers are anxious to see if Congress slips another delay into a must-pass legislative vehicle. 

Despite the announcement from key Congressional leaders in the House and Senate unanimously declaring their intent to implement ICD-10 as scheduled on Oct. 1, 2015, and a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report declaring Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ready, opponent groups continue to voice concerns about industry’s preparedness the implementation of the expanded code set. 

Nearly 100 physician groups representing state and specialty medical societies wrote to CMS last week to express their concerns about the agency’s plans help doctors convert to the ICD-10 coding system. The physician groups echoed the calls from many Members of Congress to publicize the agency’s contingency plan should implementation of the modernized code set not go as smoothly as anticipated, to ensure the nation’s providers are still properly reimbursed for their services. 

Additionally, the physician groups called on CMS to work with the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) to ensure EHR systems are able to code in ICD-10 and confirm that claims contractors will not audit for the correct codes. 

Separately, 22 hospital systems sent a letter to key congressional committee leaders asking Congress not to delay ICD-10 again. 

The two letters, both sent last week, illustrate the sharp divide among most hospital and physician groups on the issue of ICD-10 implementation. CHIME will continue to work with the Coalition for ICD-10 to maintain the scheduled implementation date of Oct. 1, 2015. 


CMS Calls for Volunteers to Perform ICD-10 Acknowledgement Testing

Key Takeaway: CMS will offer ICD-10 acknowledgment testing for providers and clearinghouses during the week June 1 through June 5, 2015. 

Why it Matters: This opportunity will give providers preparing for the transition to ICD-10 another opportunity to test their systems with access to real-time help desk support. 

According to an announcement made last week by CMS, providers and clearinghouses will have an opportunity to perform acknowledgement testing with the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) and the Durable Medical Equipment (DME) MAC Common Electronic Data Interchange (CEDI) contractor during the week of June 1. 

CMS previously conducted two successful acknowledgement testing weeks in March 2014 and November 2014. These acknowledgement testing weeks give submitters access to real-time help desk support and allow CMS to analyze testing data. Registration is not required for these virtual events. Information is available on your MAC website or through your clearinghouse (if you use a clearinghouse to submit claims to Medicare). Any provider who submits claims electronically can participate in acknowledgement testing. 

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