44,000 Meaningful Use Providers Ask for Hardship Exceptions, CMS Says

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By Alex Ruoff

Sept. 29 — Roughly 44,000 providers applied for hardship exceptions from the meaningful use program this year in hopes of avoiding a Medicare penalty next year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Sept. 29.

The vast majority of hardship exception applicants were new to the meaningful use program and claimed they were unable to adopt an electronic health record certified under the latest federal standards, the CMS said. Providers eligible to participate in the meaningful use program who fail to meet the program's requirement by Oct. 1 and who also failed to meet the program's requirements in 2013 will be subject to a one percent reduction in Medicare payments for Part B claims in 2015, according to the CMS.

Applications for hardship exceptions were due July 1. The CMS is notifying providers inpidually if their applications were granted, the agency said.

Industry groups have complained to the CMS that thousands of their members have been unable this year to adopt an EHR system certified under the 2014 Edition criteria, which replaced the 2011 Edition as the criteria under which EHR systems must be certified in order to be used in the meaningful use program.

In response, the CMS Sept. 4 published a final rule (79 Fed. Reg. 52,910) that allows providers and hospitals to use in 2014 electronic health record systems that meet 2011 Edition certification criteria (see previous article).

In February, CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said the agency would make it easier for providers and hospitals to obtain hardship exceptions in 2014 if they faced technology problems (see previous article).

Registration Numbers

According to the latest CMS data, as of July about 10 percent—nearly 54,500 providers—of those eligible to participate in the meaningful use program hadn't yet registered to participate.

Of the 483,137 providers who had registered, roughly 400,000 have received an incentive payment, according to the data.

Less than 50,000 providers registered for a payment between January and August, according to the data. The vast majority of providers registered before 2013.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at aruoff@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kendra Casey Plank at kcasey@bna.com