The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said there are approximately 171,000 eligible professionals (EPs) who are subject to a downward payment adjustment in 2017 under Medicare for failing to meet meaningful use requirements.
If an EP is eligible to participate in the Medicare electronic health record (EHR) Incentive Program, they must successfully demonstrate meaningful use in either the Medicare EHR Incentive Program or in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, to avoid a Medicare payment adjustment. Since 2011, more than 400,000 EPs have received incentive payments under the program.
Payment adjustments for Medicare EPs occur two years from the actual attestation year; so the penalties for 2017 are for 2015 reporting. Last year, 209,000 EPs received cuts in their Medicare payments as a result of failing to meet standards set in the meaningful use program, while 257,000 EPs were penalized in 2015. The Medicare payment adjustments began on January 1, 2015 for EPs and sunset in 2018 per the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA).
EPs may also apply for significant hardship exceptions to avoid the payment adjustments. Late last year, President Obama signed into law the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, a bill designed to make it easier for healthcare providers to receive hardship exemption from financial penalties for failing to meet Stage 2 meaningful use requirements. But the delayed release of the Stage 2 modifications rule last year led stakeholders to believe that blanket hardship exemptions should be granted for the 2015 attestation year.
In total, CMS reported that 98 percent of eligible hospitals and CAHs (critical access hospitals) across the country have successfully demonstrated meaningful use at either Stage 1 or Stage 2.
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