Avoiding Meaningful Use Penalties
Physicians have until March 15, 2016 to apply for a hardship exemption from the electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use financial penalties for the 2015 program year. Those who don’t apply could face up to a 3 percent cut in their Medicare payments in 2017 since the meaningful use program operates on a two-year look-back period. The good news is that exemptions will be granted broadly this year.
Everyone should apply
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has stated that it will broadly grant hardship exemptions as a result of the delayed publication of the Stage 2 meaningful use modifications rule, which left physicians with insufficient time to report under the modified program requirements issued in late 2015.
This inclusive approach to hardship exemptions is a result of the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, passed just before Congress adjourned for the holidays, which directed CMS to make AMA-supported changes to the previously limited exemption process.
All physicians should apply for the exemption since there isn’t a downside to doing so. Even physicians who believe they met the requirements of the meaningful use program in 2015 can apply. Submitting an application for a hardship exemption will not prevent those who qualify from receiving an incentive payment.
How to apply
Physicians should be sure to submit their applications before midnight Eastern time March 15. To get started, download an application from CMS and consult step-by-step instructions (log in) the AMA compiled to help simplify the submission process.
New this year, individuals can apply on behalf of a group of physicians.
While CMS has given a deadline for applications, it has not yet indicated when physicians will receive confirmation of their exemption status.