GOP Lawmakers Call for Reboot of Meaningful Use Program

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On Tuesday, six Republican senators released a 28-page white paper -- titled, "REBOOT: Re-examining the Strategies Needed to Successfully Adopt Health IT" -- outlining their concerns about current federal health IT policy, FierceEMR reports.

The white paper accompanied a letter that the six lawmakers sent to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The letter requested information about the agency's progress in promoting electronic health record adoption through the meaningful use program.

Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR systems can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

The six Republican senators who released the white paper and signed the letter are:

  • Lamar Alexander (Tenn.);
  • Richard Burr (N.C.);
  • Tom Coburn (Okla.);
  • Mike Enzi (Wyo.);
  • Pat Roberts (Kan.); and
  • John Thune (S.D.) (Durben Hirsch, FierceEMR, 4/16).

Details of White Paper

In the white paper, the lawmakers acknowledged that the meaningful use program aims to improve health care quality and reduce costs. However, they wrote, "nearly four years after the enactment ... we see evidence that the program is at risk of not achieving its goals and that $35 billion in taxpayer money is being spent ineffectively in the process."

The lawmakers outlined their concerns about federal health IT policy, writing that:

  • The use of health IT systems "may have actually accelerated the ordering of unnecessary care, as well as increased billing for the same procedures";
  • The federal government has not required different EHR systems to be able to exchange medical information;
  • There are few protections in place to prevent fraud and abuse in the meaningful use program;
  • Processes to protect patient privacy are "lax and may jeopardize sensitive patient data"; and
  • It is unclear whether health care providers who have received meaningful use incentive payments will be able to maintain their EHR systems without continued federal funding (Schulte, Center for Public Integrity, 4/16).

The lawmakers wrote, "We are seriously concerned that, despite the billions of taxpayer dollars spent and providers who may be penalized, (Medicare) does not yet seem to have an adequate plan to achieve secure, meaningful interoperability" (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/16).

The lawmakers wrote that the meaningful use program needs to be "recalibrated" to achieve its goals (Center for Public Integrity, 4/16).

Details of Letter

In the accompanying letter, the senators asked Sebelius to provide a written plan responding to the concerns cited in the white paper.

The lawmakers also asked Sebelius to provide additional information, such as a list of all contracts awarded under the stimulus package's HITECH Act and data from HHS' evaluation of state health IT programs.

The lawmakers asked Sebelius to respond to their queries by June 16 (FierceEMR, 4/16).


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