AHA opposes new health information blocking rule

The AHA wrote a letter to CMS and the national coordinator for health information technology expressing apprehension regarding a proposed rule designed to establish disincentives for healthcare providers who impede access, exchange or utilization of electronic health information. 

"The disincentive structure proposed in this rule is excessive, so much so that it may threaten the financial viability of economically fragile hospitals, including many small and rural hospitals," the Jan. 2 letter reads. 

The AHA also argued that the uncertainties surrounding the processes employed by the Office of Inspector General to determine instances of information blocking, including the appeals process, have raised eyebrows. The AHA suggests that the lack of clarity gives the proposed rule an "arbitrary" and "capricious appearance."

Additionally, according to the organization, the disincentives proposed in the rule are tied to variable elements of provider payment, such as the value of the market basket adjustment and certain performance incentives in a given year. The AHA argues that this creates an unfair and confusing framework, allowing for disproportionate punishment for the same offense depending on the year of the violation and the duration it takes for the violation to be referred to CMS.

Lastly, the proposed rule, if finalized, would mark the program's fourth update since 2019, according to the AHA. 

"Such instability in program rules has created substantial burden and confusion for providers, detracting from one of the program's key goals: to use information technology to improve patient outcomes by easing access to electronic health information — a part of which is reducing burden," the AHA wrote. 

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