Eligible professionals in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program have a new meaningful use attestation deadline to complete their meaningful use attestations for the 2014 reporting year, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Originally these providers had until the end of February to complete their 2014 meaningful use reporting.
In an update to Medicare EPs, the federal agency has extended the deadline to the end of March 20, 2015. “CMS extended the deadline to allow providers extra time to submit their meaningful use data. CMS continues to urge providers to begin attesting for 2014 as soon as they can,” the division of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) revealed on Wednesday.
Meeting the March deadline is necessary for Medicare EPs to still receive an EHR incentive payment and avoid a Medicare payment adjustment after Jan. 1, 2016. As CMS notes, the extended deadline has no bearing on the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, but it does impact the EHR reporting option for the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) which is now set for March 20 as well.
The extension also marks an important opportunity for EPs looking to change EHR Incentive Programs:
This extension also allows eligible professionals, who have not already used their one “switch”, to switch programs (from Medicare to Medicaid, or vice versa) for the 2014 payment year until 11:59 pm ET on March 20, 2015. After that time, eligible professionals will no longer be able to switch programs.
Toward the end of 2014, CMS gave eligible hospitals additional time to complete their meaningful use attestations for the 2014 reporting year. Using the same rationale, the federal agency gave these providers an additional month to complete their attestations.
At the time, the Director of Public Policy for the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) Jeff Smith claimed the extension was a sign of “degree of program complexity and the level of reporting burden associated with attesting to meaningful use.”
This most recent update comes one day after CMS reminded EPs working to demonstrate Stage 2 Meaningful Use of a March 1 deadline for registering their intent to start the ongoing process of submitting data to a public health agency (PHA), program, or similar organization 60 days in advance of their EHR reporting period.
All these changes are consistent with the federal agency’s newfound commitment to making the EHR Incentive Programs more flexible for providers. That being said, eligible providers still await two pieces of proposed rulemaking that will determine the course of meaningful use over the next year and beyond. The more pressing of the two, which includes reducing the reporting period from 365 days to 90 days, still must go through the appropriate rulemaking pressing. Meanwhile, Stage 3 Meaningful Use requirements are likely to appear next month.
UPDATE: The American Medical Association (AMA) has made clear its support of the extension for EP meaningful use attestations. However, the association is still seeking additional changes to the EHR Incentive Programs.
“Only 24 percent of physicians have attested to Meaningful Use for 2014 as of the beginning of February,” AMA President Elect Steven J. Stack said following the CMS announcement.
“The deadline extension underscores that the Meaningful Use program is not working,” Stack continued, “and that policymakers need to act on our recommendations to make it more flexible, remove the measures that physicians are having the most difficulty in meeting and revamp the certification program so that electronic health record vendors can innovate to create products that better serve patients and physicians.”