Proposed Rule to Extend and Amend the Exception to Donate Electronic Health Records Items and Services

The Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published on April 10, 2013 proposed rules to extend and amend the Electronic Health Records (EHR) donation exceptions under the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark Law, respectively.

The proposed rules would extend the exceptions until the end of 2016, but both the OIG and CMS are seeking comments on extending the sunset date to December 31, 2021, which corresponds to the end of the EHR Medicaid incentives program.  Under the current law, both exceptions are set to sunset on December 31, 2013 .

In addition, the OIG and CMS propose to amend the conditions of the EHR donation exceptions by removing the electronic prescribing requirement and redefining (i.e. limiting) the type of entities that can donate.   The current EHR donation exceptions permit donations by any individual or entity that provides patients with health care items or services covered by a Federal health care program, based on a public policy initiative to expedite adoption and use of EHR systems.  The proposed rules would remove, among other entities, clinical laboratories and pharmacies from the definition of a protected donor.

Finally, the OIG and CMS propose to address a critical issue identified as “data and referral lock-in,” in which EHR technology that appears to support the interoperable exchange of information on its face, in practice restricts the recipient provider to transmit data and communicate only with the donor entity to control referrals.  In response, the OIG and CMS propose to require that the donated EHR software is certified in accordance with the definition of Certified EHR Technology applicable on the date of the donation. Under the current law, both exceptions require only that the EHR software is interoperable.

Comments on the proposed rules will be accepted for 61 days from the date of publication, which is June 10, 2013.

This post is contributed by Charles Dunham.