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Meaningful use penalties sear more than half of EPs in 2015


Starting in January, nearly 257,000 eligible professionals will face a 1% cut to their Medicare reimbursements for not meeting meaningful use standards, according to CMS.

Starting in January, nearly 257,000 eligible professionals (EPs) will face a 1% cut to their Medicare reimbursements for not meeting meaningful use (MU) standards, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

MORE COVERAGE: EHR financial incentives are working to speed adoption

On top of the 1% penalty, 28,000 EPs will have an additional 2% penalty for not meeting e-prescribing standards. In a call to reporters on December 17, CMS officials said EPs had until October 1 to meet MU qualifications.

CMS will be notifying the penalized EPs starting the week of December 22. Those practitioners will have until February to appeal the penalty. CMS says appeal instructions will be sent to the EPs, and posted on a CMS website.

American Medical Association (AMA) President-elect Steven J. Stack, MD, says the association is “appalled” that more than half of EPs will face MU penalties.

"The penalties physicians are facing under the meaningful use program are part of a regulatory tsunami facing physicians, apart from the flawed sustainable growth rate formula, that could include cuts from the physician quality reporting system, the value-based modifier program and the sequester, further destabilizing physician practices and creating a disincentive to see Medicare patients,” Stack says in a press release. “The overlapping and often conflicting patchwork of laws and regulations must be fixed and aligned to ensure physicians are able to move to innovative payment and delivery models that could improve the quality of care."

Physicians groups have long voiced their concerns over the upcoming MU2 attestation and the penalties physicians could be saddled with. As of November 1, 11,478, or 2% of EPs, and 840, or 17% of hospitals had attested to MU2. Practitioners have until April to meeting MU2 standards, or face more penalties.

In November, a coalition of medical societies requested that CMS adopt more flexible standards for the MU program. In October, the AMA suggested implementing a 50% threshold for incurring a penalty and a 75% threshold for earning an incentive in MU stages 1 and 2.

Practitioners had two opportunities in 2014 to apply for a hardship exemption to MU. The July deadline yielded more than 44,000 applications. The second hardship application period ended November 30. CMS says nearly 55,000 practitioners were approved for hardship exemptions.

CMS has paid more than $25 billion to EPs and hospitals as incentives to participate in the MU program.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health