Bill would allow EHR incentives for uncertified programs

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | August 04, 2010
Law could ease
EHR certification burdens
A new bill could help hospitals angling for Medicare stimulus bill incentives for electronic health records get them - at least temporarily - even if their EHR software isn't certified.

Sen. Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas) introduced a bill Friday that would let hospitals qualify for Medicare incentive payments, starting in 2011 and carrying on to 2012, if their software helps them meet meaningful use requirements, even if it's not certified, according to the American Hospital Association, which backs the bill.

Under current law, CMS requires hospital's software to be certified by organizations deputized by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology for it to qualify for EHR incentive payments, set to be doled out under the HITECH provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act starting next year.

But no certified products are available yet, so hospitals would have to scramble to update their current EHRs or install new ones when they become available, which could burden the early adopters the program was meant to reward, the AHA said.

"[E]ven the early adopters this program was designed to recognize - those hospitals already using EHRs - will need to upgrade or replace existing systems with certified products in order to be eligible for incentives," Rick Pollack, AHA's executive vice president, said in a letter of support to Burgess. "Your bill would help to alleviate this situation by providing for the temporary treatment of certain EHR products as certified for purposes of EHR payment incentives."

According to the bill, H.R. 6005, or Ensuring Equality for Early EHR Adoption Act of 2010, by 2013 all hospitals wanting incentive monies would need to use certified EHRs.

The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But it will be at least a month before the committee will likely start looking into the bill. On Friday, the House adjourned for its August break until Sept. 14.