Today, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA), and Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Wally Herger (R-CA) called on Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to immediately suspend the distribution of incentive payments related to the Electronic Health Records (EHR) program. The top House policymakers on healthcare are concerned that HHS is squandering taxpayer dollars by asking little of providers in return for incentive payments. Recent reports revealed that the EHR program may be leading to higher Medicare spending and greater inefficiencies while doing little, if anything, to improve health outcomes.
The members urged Secretary Sebelius to halt the incentive payments and delay penalties for providers who choose not to integrate Health Information Technology (HIT) into their practice until the agency increases what is expected of Meaningful Users and has a clear plan and expectation for interoperability. A recent survey of clinicians concluded that more work must be done to improve electronic HIT standards with more than 70 percent of respondents reporting "a lack of interoperability" as a major barrier that impairs them from sharing information in an electronic setting.
Outlining their concerns, the members wrote, "It is critical that your agency do everything possible to advance interoperability and meaningful use of HIT, not just in name only .More than four and a half years and two final Meaningful Use rules later, it is safe to say that we are no closer to interoperability in spite of the nearly $10 billion spent. With the bar for Meaningful Use set so low, and with a focus instead on trying to pad participation rates, these challenges are predictable. Incentive payments, particularly those funded by the Medicare trust funds and taxpayers, should be given to providers who are truly "meaningful users' of EHR."