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Meaningful Use 'Bombshell' Leaves Nary a Mark

   January 19, 2016

Andy Slavitt throttles back his forecast for the end of meaningful use as we know it, disappointing many, and proving that government reform is coming… but at its own excruciating pace.

What are we to make of CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt's pronouncement last week that meaningful use is "effectively over" and that it "will be replaced with something better"?

As of this morning, my take on things is that Slavitt said disappointingly little that was truly new, and various journalists, myself included, jumped to conclusions when we characterized his remarks as a bombshell.

Andy Slavitt

The evidence for this appeared just this morning, as Slavitt himself, in this blog post with Karen DeSalvo, head of the Office of the National Coordinator, basically throttled back his prediction of the end of meaningful use as we know it in 2016. The highlight:

"The approach to meaningful use under MACRA [the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015] won't happen overnight. Our goal in communicating our principles now is to give everyone time to plan for what's next and to continue to give us input. We encourage you to look for the MACRA regulations this year; in the meantime, our existing regulations—including meaningful use Stage 3—are still in effect."

Last week, perhaps expecting this walk-back, a spokesman for the College of Information Management Executives (CHIME) had this to say:

"CHIME members need to be focused on meeting the regulations that are currently on the books. While CHIME is encouraged to hear that CMS may be retooling the program, the current regs are still the current regs."

Indeed, Meaningful Use stage 2 regulations remain in effect, and are likely to remain so for some time to come. Final rules adopted in late 2015 make minor adjustments to the program, but it fundamentally remains in place.

Meaningful Use Program 'Effectively Over,' Says CMS Head

Some Relief
One bright ray of hope did appear at the end of 2015. On a voice vote, Congress passed legislation offering a blanket hardship exemption to providers from 2015's meaningful use penalties for not attesting successfully for meaningful use requirements.

While this one vote does not in itself end all meaningful use penalties, it provides a path to sustained program penalty relief, which allows providers to look forward, beyond the EHR incentive/penalty program aspects of meaningful use.

Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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