In 2017, 171,000 providers will face a 3% negative adjustment in Medicare payments for failing to meet requirements of the Meaningful Use EHR Incentive program in 2015, CMS recently announced.
Around a third of providers affected could have avoided the penalty by applying for an exemption established by legislation passed toward the end of 2015, Politico reported.
Some industry experts suspect CMS did too little to publicize exemption eligibility requirements and trade associations could ask the incoming administration to waive the penalty, according to a Medscape Medical News.
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The number of eligible providers being hit with an MU penalty in 2017 is down from the 209,000 penalized this year and the 257,000 penalized in 2015. This number could have been even lower due to a change in CMS policy for granting exemptions, which was enabled by legislation Congress passed last year out of concern over the potential for widespread penalties.
CMS issued final MU Stage 2 rules on October 6, 2015. These rules stated that providers only needed to meet Stage 2 requirements for a 90-day stretch in 2015. However, there were fewer than 90 days left in the year by the time CMS issued final Stage 2 rules, as Robert Tennany, diretor of health IT policy for the Medical Group Management Association, explained to Medscape Medical News.
Members of Congress, concerned that providers may be unfairly penalized due to circumstances outside their control, passed a bill that would allow CMS to grant exemptions in bunches rather than on a case-by-case basis when providers faced “extreme and uncontrollable circumstances.” Around one-third of the providers being penalized in 2017 would have qualified for the exemption had they applied.
It is unclear whether President-elect Trump or incoming HHS Secretary Rep. Tom Price would support a waiver. The EHR incentive program will be phased out in 2018, the last year that providers will be subject to MU penalties. The MU program will be bundled up into MIPS under the Quality Payment Program, the MACRA implementation program.
Date: December 22, 2016