CMS and ONC Delay Enforcement of Final Interoperability Rules Due to COVID-19

3 min

In a joint statement issued yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), together with the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), announced that they would delay enforcement of the CMS Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule (CMS Final Rule) and the ONC 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program Final Rule (ONC Final Rule). These long-anticipated Final Rules seek to promote patient access to their health information electronically and improve information sharing within the healthcare industry. Pre-publication versions of both final rules were released on March 9, 2020 and are scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on May 1, 2020.

In their joint statement, CMS and ONC stated that while they are committed to ensuring that patients and healthcare providers have access to health information electronically, they recognize that all available resources are currently needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This enforcement delay is the latest in a spate of actions over the last two months that are meant to ease the regulatory burden on the healthcare industry, to allow an effective response to the public health emergency.

The delays offered by CMS and ONC are relatively modest, extending original compliance time frames, which were already quite aggressive, by an additional three to six months. Thus healthcare providers, payors, and health IT companies will need to keep moving their efforts forward toward compliance, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CMS Final Rule

The delays related to the CMS Final Rule include a six-month delay of:

  • The admission, discharge, and transfer notification Conditions of Participation, resulting in a new effective date for compliance of May 1, 2021;
  • The patient access application programming interfaces (APIs) for Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, resulting in a new effective date for compliance of July 1, 2021;
  • The provider directory APIs for Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, resulting in a new effective date for compliance of July 1, 2021; and
  • The patient access APIs for Qualified Health Plan issuers on the individual market Federally Facilitated Exchanges, resulting in a new effective date for compliance of July 1, 2021.

All other policies contained in the CMS Final Rule will be implemented and enforced on schedule.

ONC Final Rule

The ONC is delaying all new requirements in its Final Rule by three months after each initial compliance date or timeline identified in the Final Rule. For example, the new Condition of Certification for information blocking will not be enforced until February 1, 2021. A detailed chart listing the original compliance date and the associated delay may be found here.

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For help with your organization’s efforts to comply with the CMS and ONC Final Rules, please contact one of the authors of this alert.