On Wednesday, four senators sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting a meeting with staff members from CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to discuss Stage 2 of the meaningful use program, Healthcare Informatics reports (Perna, Healthcare Informatics, 10/18).
Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.
The letter comes just two weeks after four House Republicans called for HHS to suspend incentive payments for Stage 2 of the meaningful use program (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 10/18).
The House Republicans said that nearly $10 billion might have been wasted because the rules under Stage 2 of the meaningful use program are "weaker" than the rules for Stage 1 (iHealthBeat, 10/5).
Details of Senators' Letter
The letter was signed by Senate:
- Finance Committee member John Thune (R-S.D.);
- Finance Committee member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.);
- Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee member Richard Burr (R-N.C.); and
- HELP Committee member Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) (Modern Healthcare, 10/18).
It states that a recent Congressional briefing on the meaningful use program "did not provide sufficient time and opportunity to fully cover the full range of questions regarding the [Stage 2] final rule and related implementation issues" (Goedert, Health Data Management, 10/18).
In the letter, the senators asked whether:
- The adoption of EHR systems has increased health care providers' billing of Medicare and thereby increased program's cost for taxpayers;
- Some health care providers received subsidies for EHR systems that were implemented before the adoption of federal standards and mandates; and
- The use of EHR systems has increased the use of diagnostic tests (Modern Healthcare, 10/18).
The senators also asked CMS and ONC officials to explain their strategy for the meaningful interoperability of EHR systems (Health Data Management, 10/18).
They requested a meeting no later than Oct. 26 to discuss the questions (Healthcare Informatics, 10/18).