On Monday, speaking at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, CMS Acting Administrator (the head of CMS) Andy Slavitt was quoted as saying, “now that we effectively have technology in virtually every place where care is provided, we’re now in the process of ending meaningful use and moving to a new regime.” What a bombshell – the end of meaningful use!

Unsurprisingly, word of Slavitt’s declaration spread quickly across industry outlets:

Great news, right?!  No more meaningful use?  Pop the champagne – physicians  rejoice!  Well unfortunately, as my pal Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast my friends…

The full quote from Mr. Slavitt reads, “Now that we effectively have technology in virtually every place where care is provided, we’re now in the process of ending meaningful use and moving to a new regime culminating with the MACRA implementation.”  So unfortunately, the headlines missed the other half of the story, which is that meaningful use is not going away; rather, the financial penalties tied to meaningful use for physicians are simply being rolled into a new program as a result of the April 2015 SGR repeal or MACRA law.  Indeed, the law specifies that the Medicare penalties tied to meaningful use (as well as those for PQRS and the value-based modifier) will be rolled into a single new program, the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, or MIPS, starting in 2019 (with 2017 performance likely impacting the 2019 payments.)

But what’s with the 2016 reference then?

But with the MIPS program likely set to begin in 2017, why did Slavitt reference 2016? CMS has indicated its intent to publish regulations implementing MACRA and MIPS this year, which likely speaks to that reference. Furthermore, this rulemaking does offer CMS an opportunity to make some changes to the future requirements for meaningful use and CMS did indicate a willingness to do just that when it released the final rule for Stage 3 of meaningful use in October as a final rule with a comment period. And given the widespread dissatisfaction across the industry with the current trajectory of the MU program and the calls from provider groups to CMS to align the MACRA/MIPS rulemaking with the final rulemaking for Stage 3, it does seem likely that CMS will use this year’s rulemaking as an opportunity to change some of the program’s future requirements.

Will this all mean, as Mr. Slavitt also remarked, that “the meaningful use program as it has existed, will now be effectively over and replaced with something better”?  Time will ultimately tell, but let’s be hopeful that Mr. Slavitt’s remarks this week are the official start of that conversation.


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