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Medicare EHR Incentive Report Reveals Gap in Payments

July 27, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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According to a new report from the Government Accountability Agency (GAO), acute hospitals are twice as likely to be awarded Medicare EHR incentive payments than critical access hospitals.  The report looked at the incentive payouts to761 hospitals and 56,585 professionals representing approximately $2.3 billion last year.

The 761 hospitals represented just 16 percent of the estimated 4,855 eligible hospitals and were awarded approximately $1.3 billion. The amount of EHR incentive payments ranged from $22,300 to $4.4 million and the median payment amount was $1.7 million. Additionally, 61 percent of hospitals accounted for about 80 percent of the total amount of incentive payments awarded to hospitals.

Of those who received a payment, more than four-fifths (86 percent) were acute care hospitals and almost half (46 percent) were in the top third of hospitals in terms of number of beds. The largest proportion (44 percent) was located in the South, and the lowest proportion (12 percent) was located in the Northeast. Most, two-thirds (67 percent), were in urban areas.

Overall, in the top third in terms of numbers of beds were 2.4 times more likely than hospitals in the bottom third to have been awarded an incentive payment. Additionally, nonprofit and for-profit hospitals were 1.1 and 1.5 times more likely than government-owned hospitals,

Meanwhile, the 56,585 professionals who were awarded a Medicare EHR incentive payment for 2011 represented about nine percent of the estimated 600,172 professionals eligible for the program, and were awarded a total of about $967 million in incentive payments. Like the hospitals, the largest proportion (32 percent) who received a payment was located in the South, while the lowest proportion (17 percent) was located in the West. Also, a significant majority (89 percent) were in urban areas.

Approximately half (50 percent) were specialty practice physicians and over one-third (38 percent) were general practice physicians. Overall, though, general practice physicians were 1.8 times more likely than specialty practice physicians to have been awarded an incentive payment. Professionals who had previously participated in CMS’s electronic prescribing program were almost four times more likely to have been awarded an incentive payment than those who had not participated in the electronic prescribing program. Professionals who had signed an agreement to receive technical assistance from a Regional Extension Center were more than twice as likely to have been awarded an incentive payment.

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