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Meaningful use penalties: CMS releases physician reimbursement reduction details, latest attestation numbers


The success rate for physicians attesting to meaningful use for electronic health records is improving, but remains dismal: More than three-quarters of eligible professionals (EPs) so far have not attested to any stage of the meaningful use program.

The success rate for physicians attesting to meaningful use for electronic health records is improving, but remains dismal: More than three-quarters of eligible professionals (EPs) so far have not attested to any stage of the meaningful use program.

The result: More than 250,000 EPs are seeing their Medicare reimbursements reduced, with cuts ranging from less than $250 this year to more than $2,000.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released more details on attestation rates and the scope of reimbursement penalties for physicians and other healthcare providers as a result of failing to attest to meaningful use in 2014.

More coverage:Meaningful use 2: Is it mission impossible?

According to CMS data, 36,782 EPs attested to meaningful use 2 through February 1. Another 71,519 EPs are scheduled to attest to stage 2 in 2015 after completing stage one during the last two years.

Of the 256,000 eligible professionals (EPs) who are being penalized for failing to attest:

  • 34% (or 87,000) providers will be penalized $250 or less,

  • 21% (55,000) will forfeit between $250 and $1,000,

  • 14% will be penalized between $1,000 to $2,000, and

  • 31% will lose $2,000 or more this year.

Physicians are facing significant challenges attesting to meaningful use 2 in their practices, in large part because of the difficulty of exchanging healthcare information among different providers and health systems and the difficulties in engaging with patients electronically through patient portals. As of December, only 4% of EPs had successfully attested to meaningful use 2.

NEXT PAGE:How the government is changing meaningful use 2 to help physicians


The American Medical Association (AMA) released a statement criticizing the government for the penalties, saying that they “undermine the program’s goals.”

“The American Medical Association (AMA) is alarmed by [the Feb. 10] announcement that more than three quarters of eligible professionals have still been unable to attest to meaningful use,” the statement reads. “The program’s one-size-fits-all approach, that has not been proven to improve quality, has made it difficult for physicians to take part. The penalties physicians are facing as a result of the Meaningful Use program undermine the program’s goals and take valuable resources away from physician practices that could be spent investing in better and additional technologies and moving to alternative models of care that could improve quality and lower costs.”

Related coverage: 7 ways to prepare for a meaningful use audit

In January, CMS announced plans to revise rules in order to make attesting to meaningful use 2 more flexible by shorting the attestation period to 90 days, down from a full year. The AMA and other physician advocacy groups praised the decision, saying they looked forward to participating in the rulemaking to ease the meaningful use rules further for physicians in 2015.

Responding to pressure from physicians, hospitals and lawmakers, CMS plans to give electronic health record (EHR) users more flexibility in meeting the requirements of its meaningful use program.

More coverage: Conquering the meaningful use 2 challenge

Patrick Conway, MD, CMS’ chief medical officer and deputy administrator for innovation and quality, said CMS plans to develop a rule intended to shorten the 2015 EHR reporting period from a full year to 90 days. According to Conway the rule also will:

  • realign hospital EHR reporting period to the calendar year to allow eligible hospitals more time to incorporate 2014 edition software into their workflows and better along with other CMS quality programs, and

  • modify other aspects of the program to match long-term goals, and reduce complexity and lessen providers’ reporting burdens

Conway announced the intended rule change in a January 29 blog posting on CMS’ website. He added that the changes are separate from a proposed rule for Stage 3 of the meaningful use program. “CMS intends to limit the scope of the Stage 3 proposed rule to the requirements and criteria for meaningful use in 2017 and subsequent years,” he wrote.

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