6 Senators Press for Clarification on MU Hardship Exemptions

By Helen Gregg for Becker’s Health IT

Six senators have called on CMS to provide clarification on its plan to provide healthcare providers more flexibility in applying for hardship exemptions to meaningful use deadlines.

In response to industry pleas for a more relaxed timeline for the meaningful use program, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced in late February that meaningful use stage 2 will proceed as scheduled, but there will be some flexibility in hardship exemptions granted to providers struggling with the looming deadline for 2014 attestation.

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) were part of a group of 17 senators that joined a growing call for an extension for meaningful use stage 2 back in September. Now, the six senators have written a letter to Ms. Tavenner both expressing their disappointment that an extension was not granted and asking for clarification on how a provider could obtain a hardship exemption.

“The CMS website currently says hardship exceptions are available only in certain narrow circumstances — such as a lack of broadband internet or an unforeseen natural disaster,” wrote the senators. “How will these categories be expanded? Will the applications be due April 1? What documentation or standard of proof must be met to obtain an exception? What is the timing for review, and will there be an appeals process?”

The meaningful use timeline recently led leaders at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City to decide to skip attestation in 2014, citing both competing priorities and patient safety concerns.

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