Groups React to New Meaningful Use Hardship Exception Deadline

October 9, 2014 in News

Reaction to CMS’ decision to reopen the submission period for hardship exception applications for the meaningful use program has been mostly positive, FierceEMR reports (Bowman, FierceEMR, 10/8).

Background

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

In a regulation and guidance update issued Tuesday, CMS said it plans to give both eligible providers and hospitals until Nov. 30 to file hardship exception applications. The deadline previously was July 1 for eligible providers and April 1 for eligible hospitals.

The hardship application extension follows news reports that a technical glitch in the meaningful use program could inappropriately penalize physicians who recently adopted EHR systems. According to the reports, CMS will not be able to register until mid-October whether providers with new EHR systems can meet meaningful use requirements. Therefore, providers who adopted EHR systems for the first time this year likely would not have their reports registered by the Oct. 1 deadline.

The extension applies to providers who have been hampered by delays in access to 2014 Edition certified EHR technology, as well as eligible professionals who were unable to attest by Oct. 1 and eligible hospitals that were unable to attest by July 1 using the flexibility options provided CMS’ final rule (iHealthBeat, 10/7).

Reaction From CHIME

Jeff Smith, vice president of public policy at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, praised CMS’ decision to extend the deadline for hardship exceptions (Tahir, Modern Healthcare, 10/7).

Smith said that CMS “definitely didn’t have to” reopen the exception applications, so its decision demonstrates that the agency is “being responsive to the situation on the ground.”

However, he called the decision “a wash” overall. He noted that the extension will be important for some eligible physicians, who will be able to avoid penalties under the meaningful use program but that those physicians would not be eligible for the program’s payment incentives in the first year (Murphy, EHR Intelligence, 10/7).

Reaction From HIMSS

Meanwhile, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society in a statement said that it “supports CMS’ decision to extend the submission period for hardship exception applications for eligible professionals and eligible hospitals.”

HIMSS added that it “strongly recommends CMS adjust the 2015 meaningful use requirement to one, three-month quarterly reporting period instead of a full year” (HIMSS release, 10/7).

Reaction From MGMA

Robert Tennant, a senior policy adviser for the Medical Group Management Association, called the extended exception application deadline “much-needed” to help eligible providers avoid penalties next year.

However, he said, “There is more work needed to bring additional flexibility to the meaningful use program,” adding that MGMA would continue to push for a three-month reporting period next year and for CMS to modify Stage 2 attestation criteria (FierceEMR, 10/8).

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