EHR Safe Harbor May Be Extended to 2016

Complementary rules may extend electronic health record (EHR) safe harbor for an additional three years to encourage adoption. The proposed rules, one from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) and another from the Office of Inspector General  (OIG) extend the 2006 rules relaxing federal Stark and anti-kickback laws from December 2013 to December 2016.

The 2006 rules waived the laws to encourage hospitals to provide financial and technical assistance to office-based physicians to adopt EHRs without fear of accusation of financial conflicts of interest in referrals. Based on an executive order by President George H. Bush, the waivers were accompanied by the establishment of the Office of the National Coordination for Health Information Technology (ONC) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

The rule set to expire at the end of this year requires EHR systems to be interoperable and certified by a certification body recognized by HHS with the previous 12 months to qualify for the waivers.

The proposed rule says that the EHR must be certified by a certification body authorized by the ONC within the previous 24 months instead. The rules also propose limiting waivers to cover hospitals, group practices, prescription drug plan sponsors, and Medicare Advantage plans, reflecting concerns that the previous rules – which included “any donor” under Medicare or Medicaid – was too broad.

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