Republican Senators Also Asking HHS About Meaningful Use

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Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has received another letter from leading Republican legislators about their concerns about the money spent on Meaningful Use incentives and what the government is getting back on that investment.

Earlier this month, four leading House Republicans sent a letter to Sebelius saying that the Meaningful Use program had done little to advance interoperability in health IT despite all the money spent encouraging adoption on electronic health record (EHR) systems and that the Stage 2 requirements were too soft on providers. (The letter was criticized as uninformed by HIMSS.) Now it was the Senate Republicans turn.

Senators, Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Pat Roberts (R-Ks.), and John Thume (R-S.D.) asked that staff the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office for the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) meet with the Senate Finance and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committees by October 26 to more fully explain Stage 2 requirements of the Meaningful Use program.

Like the House Republicans, the Senators expressed concern about the ability of different EHR systems to share information and if the adoption of EHR system is leading to problems with upcoding of Medicare claims by providers (an issue recently covered in the New York Times). They also raised two additional concerns that have been covered in the media.

1. That EHRs may be leading to more instead of less ordering of diagnostic tests.
2. That providers who had EHR systems in place before the adoption of the Meaningful Use standards received incentive payments.