Two weeks after top House Republicans called for HHS to halt meaningful-use incentive payments to providers, four senators have requested a meeting with staff members from the CMS and HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to discuss the program.
Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) of the Senate Finance Committee and Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) of the Senate Help, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (PDF) indicating that a recent briefing with the administration's staff was not long enough for lawmakers to get answers to all of their questions about the final rule for the second stage of the government's electronic health-record system incentive program. The program pays providers for adopting and meaningfully using EHR systems.
The lawmakers posed several questions they want members of the CMS and the ONC to address, including whether the use of taxpayer-subsidized EHRs increases the use of diagnostic tests rather than reduces them. They also ask in the letter whether some healthcare providers received subsidies for EHR systems that were already established before the adoption of federal standards and mandates, and whether the digitalization of records and adoption of EHRs have raised providers' billing of Medicare and consequently increased the cost of the program for taxpayers.