Congress to allow ‘blanket’ meaningful use exemption for 2015
Your providers will be protected from a 3% Medicare pay cut in 2017, thanks to a bill just passed by Congress that allows CMS to make “blanket” hardship exemptions for its EHR meaningful use program.
Your providers’ meaningful use reporting for 2015 is used to determine 2017 payment adjustments, but you can apply for a hardship exemption to avoid a negative adjustment if you failed to report meaningful use in 2015. You can read the text of the bill, S.2425 (the “Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act”), by clicking here. President Obama is expected to sign it into law before Jan. 1.
Note: You will still need to apply for a hardship exemption, and CMS is expected to release application forms sometime in January. The bill gives providers until March 15, 2016, to apply for an exemption.
While CMS was previously accepting hardship exemptions for 2015 meaningful use reporting, the agency was required to evaluate exemptions on a “case-by-case” basis, which industry experts said would result in a very slow process that wouldn’t protect many providers from the 3% cut in 2017. Providers who fail to apply for an exemption by the March 15 deadline may still be granted an exemption under the case-by-case process, which isn’t being replaced by the blanket exemption provision in S.2425.
CMS is expected to use this new blanket exemption authority to grant exemptions liberally, which means most providers who apply will be accepted. The move by Congress comes after a major lobbying effort by physician advocacy groups, which have argued that CMS’ late release of its meaningful use final rule in October 2015 gave providers too little time to react. The final rule modified the 2015 reporting period to allow a meaningful reporting of a 90-day contiguous period instead of a year-long reporting period.
Look for more details on the hardship exemption application process in the January newsletter issue of The Business of Medicine by DoctorsManagement.