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Legislation Providing Meaningful Use Relief to ASC-based Providers Passes Senate

On August 5, the Senate passed the Electronic Health Fairness Act (H.R.857/S.1347) by unanimous consent. This legislation, which would exempt patient encounters in Ambulatory Surgery Centers from counting toward thresholds for meaningful use of electronic health records, has now secured passage in both congressional chambers.

As the House version of the bill was wrapped into a larger legislative package that is different from what passed the Senate, further steps must be taken to align the language before it can advance to the president. The fact that this change has been approved by both houses bodes well for its eventually being enacted.

The Electronic Fairness Act would fix a flaw in the federal Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program, under which physicians are required to use certified EHRs in at least 50% of patient encounters or face a penalty. This presents challenges to providers who practice in ASCs, because there are not certification standards for ASC-specific EHRs, meaning that patient encounters in those settings are currently counted against that 50% threshold without any available remedy.

The Electronic Health Fairness Act addresses this problem by exempting patient encounters in an ASC from counting toward the denominator used to calculate provider rates of meaningful use.