As promised, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has issued guidance on how physicians can apply for a hardship exemption on meeting Stage 2 of the meaningful use of electronic health records in 2014.
Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said at the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society on Feb. 27 that CMS would not extend the deadline for meeting Stage 2 criteria, but that it would allow more flexibility in how physicians and other eligible professionals reach the goals.
Physicians who participate in the meaningful use program receive incentive payments from Medicare. If they don’t participate this year, they’ll be penalized next year. On Feb. 21, 48 physician organizations wrote to the Health and Human Services department, asking for delays in some of the deadlines for meaningful use this year and for more flexibility from the CMS.
In a guidance document, the agency now says it is currently accepting applications for exemptions from penalties for 2015. Physicians who have not yet participated in meaningful use at all have until July 1 to apply.
If a physician has demonstrated meaningful use for the 2013 reporting year, there will be no penalty in 2015. If, however, a practice is having trouble implementing 2014 certified EHR technology for a 2014 reporting period, the practice or physician can apply for a hardship exception by July 1, 2015, to avoid a penalty in 2016.
Applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, according to the guidance.
Meaningful use penalties only apply to physicians who participate in the Medicare incentive program, or in both the Medicare and Medicaid programs. There are no penalties for those who participate only in the Medicaid incentive program.
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