Groups Urge CMS To Extend EHR Hardship Exemption Deadline

June 30, 2014 in News

On Friday, the American Medical Association and the Medical Group Management Association sent a letter to CMS arguing that a proposed rule complicates the meaningful use hardship exemption application process and requested an extension to the July 1 deadline, Health Data Management reports (Slabodkin, Health Data Management, 6/30).

Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments.

Background

In May, CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT proposed a rule that would give providers an additional year to upgrade EHR systems to meet reporting requirements for Stage 2 of the meaningful use program.

The proposed rule would change:

  • The meaningful use timeline;
  • The definition of certified EHR technology; and
  • Requirements for the reporting of clinical quality measures for 2014.

Specifically, the proposed rule would provide additional flexibility by allowing eligible professionals, eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals to use the 2011 Edition certified EHR technology or a combination of 2011 and 2014 Edition certified EHR technology for the 2014 EHR reporting period.

Providers would be able to attest to meaningful use under the 2013 reporting year definition and use the clinical quality measures from 2013.

In addition, providers scheduled to begin attesting to Stage 2 in 2014 who have run into vendor problems could use 2014 Edition certified EHR technology to meet the 2014 Stage 1 objectives (iHealthBeat, 5/22).

Letter Details

In the letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, AMA and MGMA noted that the deadline for public comments on the proposed rule is July 21, which is well after the July 1 deadline for eligible professionals to submit an application to avoid the 2015 Medicare payment adjustment (Miliard, Healthcare IT News, 6/30).  

They wrote, “With the expected delay in finalization of the rule, many [eligible professionals] are unclear as to the [meaningful use] requirements for 2014 and whether they need to apply for a hardship now before the rule is finalized.” They added, “Should an [eligible professional] be unable to meet the modified [meaningful use] requirements they will have missed the hardship exception deadline and will be unfairly penalized in 2015″ (AMA/MGMA letter, 6/27).

The groups urged CMS to extend the deadline for eligible professionals to submit hardship exemptions to at least 30 days after the final rule is published.

According to the letter, extending the deadline would:

  • Give eligible professionals more time to understand the new rule;
  • Help eligible professionals avoid penalties; and
  • Encourage eligible professionals to continue their participation in the program (Health Data Management, 6/30).
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