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AMA, MGMA, Urge CMS to Extend EHR Hardship Exemption Deadline

June 30, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The American Medical Association (AMA) and Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) have sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) urging the agency to extend the July 1 date for eligible providers (EPs) to submit a hardship exception that will help them avoid meaningful use (MU) financial penalties.

In March, CMS updated guidance and applications for electronic health record (EHR) incentive payment hardship exceptions to include “2014 Vendor Issues,” related to meaningful use in 2014.

Getting into more detail, the applications read, “During the fiscal year (2014) preceding the payment adjustment year (2015), the hospital's EHR vendor was unable to obtain 2014 certification or the hospital was unable to implement meaningful use due to 2014 EHR certification delays.” Eligible hospitals had until midnight, April 1, 2014, to apply for the exception, while eligible professionals will have until July 1, 2014.

According to the June 27 letter from the trade associations to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published May 20 that proposes permitting EPs who are unable to fully implement 2014 certified EHR technology (CEHRT) to report for the 2014 reporting year using 2011 CEHRT and using 2013 criteria is making things difficult.

“This is a much-needed modification to the program and should facilitate continued program participation for many EPs. However, the timing of the proposed rule, with its July 21 closing date for public comments and publication of the final rule not expected until late summer, falls well after the July 1 date for EPs to submit a hardship exception to avoid the 2015 Medicare payment adjustment,” the letter reads.

With the expected delay in finalization of the rule, many EPs are unclear as to the MU requirements for 2014 and whether they need to apply for a hardship now before the rule is finalized, the letter says. “Should an EP be unable to meet the modified MU requirements they will have missed the hardship exception deadline and will be unfairly penalized in 2015. To date fifty percent of Medicare EPs have participated in the MU program, placing another fifty percent at risk for these penalties.”

As such, the associations recommend that the agency extend the deadline for EPs to submit the hardship exception to a minimum of 30 days flowing publication of the final rule. “This additional time would allow EPs to fully understand the new rule’s requirements and would provide further encouragement for EPs to continue their participation in this important program,” the letter states. 



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