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D.C. Report: Congress Focused on CMS Innovation Center, EHR Incentives at $4.5 Billion

May 1, 2012
by Jeff Smith, Assistant Director of Advocacy at CHIME
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CMS Innovation Center Back on Congressional Radar Three Senators sent a letterto HHS Secretary Sebelius, reminding her office of a November request for information on the CMS Innovation Center.  “[W]e remain concerned that at a time of significant uncertainty for the fiscal health of the U.S. government, funds are being expended by the Innovation Center with little to no actual value provided,” Sens Enzi (R-WY) Coburn (R-OK) and Hatch (R-UT) say in their letter.  In their November letter, the Senators request the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a special study detailing the Innovation Center’s operations and strategic framework.  “We are concerned that during a time period in which the Innovation Center has become responsible for managing additional billions in federal funds, overseeing care networks for over a million Medicare beneficiaries…that the Innovation Center and Administration have not had the capability to respond to our request,” the letter continues.

Department of Labor Helps Healthcare Workforce Recently the Department of Labor launched a new portal to aid healthcare workers.  The website, aimed at both current healthcare workers and prospective workers, will help them not only find job postings, but it will also list local education programs and include free online training courses.  The Virtual Career Network (VCN) provides in-depth descriptions of over 80 healthcare careers.  Prospective workers can expect to find information on the availability of jobs that meet their interests, instructions on how to become qualified for healthcare jobs and the typical wages offered for certain types of positions.  Some news sources have reported that the website will have to prove its worth to win users from the already-established,, and a few others.  One feature that may help differentiate it is the open source platform that the website is built on to foster content contributions from outside organizations related to healthcare training and employment.  The VCN website was funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) provided leadership and content for the website. 

$4.5 Billion in Incentive Payments Paid Out as of March According to a new report by CMS, 76,612 physicians and hospitals have received $4.5 billion in incentive payments through March 2012.  Of that total, $339.9 million has been paid to Medicare eligible providers.  As of March, nearly 226,000 providers have registered for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive programs. 

Medicaid Payments began in January 2011. Through March 2012, more than $2 billion in Medicaid payments have been made.  Similarly, between May 2011 when Medicare EHR incentive payments began and the end of March 2012, more than $2.3 billion in incentive payments have been made to EPs, eligible hospitals, and CAHs that qualified.  The newest data shows that Texas, Florida, California, and Pennsylvania are among the top states to issue payments.  Here is a state-by-state breakdown of physicians and hospitals registered for EHR incentive payments through March 2012.

Study Says Many Eligible Physicians Plan to Apply for MU, But Many Not Ready While some 76,612 physicians and hospitals across the country have collected $4.5 billion in incentive payments, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs, many other physicians who planned to apply for incentive payments are struggling and are unprepared to meet the requirements for the EHR incentive program.  According to the study, 51% of the respondents intended to apply for payments, but only 11% had EHR systems with at least 10 of the 15 capabilities required for the Stage 1 core meaningful use objectives.  This lack of EHR technology, questions about ROI and other barriers are preventing smaller practices from qualifying.  The study concludes, “In the 2010 final rule adopted for stage 1 meaningful use, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that 10–36 percent of Medicare-eligible professionals and 15–47 percent of Medicaid-eligible professionals would demonstrate meaningful use in 2011.  Our survey results fall at the low end of those ranges.”  The study suggests that RECs might be guided by these findings to help physicians adopt health IT to receive incentive payments.