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D.C. Report: Permanent Certification Program Rule, EHR Incentive Program

January 11, 2011
by Sharon Canner, Sr. Director of Advocacy
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Permanent Certification Program Rule Released. Earlier this week, ONC issued its final rule creating a permanent certification program for electronic health record technology. Effective, Jan. 1, 2012 (timing could be later, if the program is not completely in place), the permanent program will replace the current temporary one established last year. Unlike the current program, the permanent program separates accrediting and certification bodies. The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) will select one organization—the ONC-approved accreditor (ONC-AA)—to accredit groups interested in becoming a health IT certification body. Only one organization will be designated with the ONC-AA status, to be chosen through a competitive process every three years. The Accreditor will then be responsible for accrediting ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies (ONC-ACBs) that will certify HIT products against certification criteria adopted by HHS. ONC estimates that six organizations will apply for ONC-ACB status under the permanent certification program; five organizations are now serving as ONC - Authorized Testing and Certification Bodies (ONC-ATCBs) under the temporary certification program.

To enhance objectivity and testing under the permanent program, ONC will request the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a laboratory program for entities that test health IT systems.

EHR Incentive Program Registration Updates. As reported last week, registration began on January 3. The Alert discussed the issue around registration for organizations in states with no Medicaid program in that the provider “will be ‘pended’ if they register for both but will have difficulty changing if they register for Medicare only at this point.”

The following is an update and serves to correct that information regarding “hospitals registering where there is no incentive program”: Dually eligible hospitals that are in states that are not ready will stay in a “pending status” for the Medicaid EHR incentive program until the state is ready. They may continue with registration for the Medicare program. If the state is not ready by May when Medicare payments are to be issued, those hospitals that have successfully attested under Medicare will still be paid under Medicare. The Medicaid registration will remain pending until the state launches its program.

Focusing on early successes for Medicaid, two states—Kentucky and Oklahoma—issued their initial payments for meaningful use of EHRs on January 5. In Kentucky, the University of Kentucky Healthcare received its first hospital payment of $2.86 million and in Oklahoma, Gastorf Family Clinic physicians in Durant received first-year checks of $21,250 for each physician.