A new bill entitled the “Electronic Health Records Improvement Act” has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Its stated purpose is to “amend certain requirements and penalties implemented under the Medicare and Medicaid programs by the HITECH Act of 2009, which would otherwise impede eligible professionals from adopting electronic health records to improve patient care.” Most notably, this bill proposes two new exemptions to the requirements to be a meaningful user of electronic health records (“EHRs”) that will be beneficial to solo physician practices and physicians nearing retirement:
- Eligible Professionals in Small Physician Practices. A physician who is a solo practitioner in 2015 would be exempt from the application of the downward payment adjustment for not demonstrating EHR meaningful use during the payment years 2015-2017. Implementing EHRs require significant investments in time for vendor selection, capital, and staff resources—and solo practitioners typically do not have the necessary resources to invest in EHRs. This exemption allows undercapitalized solo practitioners an additional three years to become a meaningful EHR user.
- Exception for Certain Physicians Near Retirement Age. A physician who will be eligible for Social Security by December 31, 2015 (or will be eligible during the 5-year period following that date) is also exempt from the application of the downward payment adjustment for not demonstrating EHR meaningful use during the payment years 2015-2017. This exemption will encourage physicians nearing retirement to continue practicing medicine for several more years instead of retiring early to avoid implementing an EHR. (Because this section of the Bill uses the terms “eligible professional” (in the text) and “physician” (in the title), there is some question as to whether this exception applies only to physicians nearing retirement or also applies to other types of eligible professionals, such as dentists, chiropractors, podiatrists, and optometrists. Hopefully, this confusion will be clarified if this Bill progresses into law.)
Here is a link to H.R. 1331. This Bill is currently in committee, and we will watch its progress closely.
Update (1/31/2015): Unfortunately, H.R. 1331 died in Committee.