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AMA Urges CMS to Give Hardship Exemptions for Meaningful Use

“The AMA has regularly stressed that CMS must finalize Meaningful Use modifications well ahead of Oct. 1 to provide the time that physicians need to plan for and accommodate these changes"

By Sara Heath

As the waiting game for the Stage 3 Meaningful Use final rule and Stage 2 meaningful use modification rule continues, the American Medical Association (AMA) is calling on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to start taking actions to account for their delay. According to a recent press release, AMA is asking CMS to make an automatic meaningful use hardship exemption due to the delay in the final rule’s release.

AMA urges CMS to issue hardship exemption for stage 2 meaningful use modification rule

According to AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, many physicians with the AMA are concerned that they will not be able to meet meaningful use standards because the details of the Stage 2 meaningful use modification rule have not yet been released.

“The AMA has regularly stressed that CMS must finalize Meaningful Use modifications well ahead of Oct. 1 to provide the time that physicians need to plan for and accommodate these changes, yet CMS has continued to delay finalizing this rule,” says Stack. “As a result, many physicians who were counting on this flexibility will be subject to financial penalties under the rules currently in place.”

An automatic hardship exemption would exempt providers of financial penalties if they are not able to meet certain meaningful use standards. CMS developed hardship exemptions for providers who can demonstrate that adhering to meaningful use rules would cause a considerable hardship. AMA maintains that the considerable delay in the final rule is viable cause for an automatic hardship exemption.

The AMA is not the only organization expressing distress over the meaningful use final rule. Many entities, such as the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) are calling on CMS to extend the meaningful use reporting period due to the delayed final rule.

The organization is concerned that medical groups will not have time to report for the final 2015 meaningful use reporting period if not given adequate notice of the new EHR Incentive Program modifications.

MGMA stated that even if the modifications rule had been announced in early September, providers still would not have had adequate time to adjust workflows for the final reporting period beginning on October 3. Instead, MGMA suggested CMS extend the reporting period to either the first 90 days of 2016, or the final 90 days of 2015.

Other entities, such as the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), have simply urged CMS to release the modification final rule sooner. CHIME, in addition to several other co-signing industry stakeholders, states that CMS withholding the final rule is preventing providers from having adequate time to prepare to the program modifications.

CHIME reiterated that many industry stakeholders commend CMS’ efforts to refocus meaningful use standards, but feels as though inadequate time is being given to providers to make their own adjustments in time for the October 3 final reporting period.

As the final reporting period is mere days away, CMS will need to release the final rule for the meaningful use modifications soon, or many providers will be left unable to meet the final reporting deadline.

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