Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

February Meaningful Use Attestation Deadline Looms for EPs

The next meaningful use attestation deadline for EPs is February 28, but additional penalties may not increase participation as anticipated.

- With 2014 having come to a close and with it the deadline for eligible hospitals to attest for meaningful use reporting year 2014, the clock is now ticking for eligible professionals to meet their meaningful use attestation deadline on February 28.

In a recent announcement before the close of 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reminds EPs that the last day of December marked the end of the final quarterly 2014 meaningful use reporting period.

“The CMS Attestation System is open and fully operational, and includes the 2014 Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT) Flexibility Rule options,” the federal agency explained. “Medicare eligible professionals can attest any time to 2014 data until 11:59 p.m. ET on February 28, 2015.”

The reminder carries with it a warning about meaningful use penalties for EPs who failed this past year:

Medicare eligible professionals that did not successfully demonstrate meaningful use in 2014 and do not receive a 2016 hardship exception will have payment adjustments applied beginning January 1, 2016. The application period will open in early January 2015. For more information, please review the payment adjustment tipsheet.

If you are eligible to participate in both the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, you MUST demonstrate meaningful use to avoid the payment adjustments. You may demonstrate meaningful use under either Medicare or Medicaid.

The announcement comes just a few weeks after CMS revealed that more than 257,000 EPs will receive notice that they are subject to Medicare payment adjustments in 2015 for failing to demonstrate meaningful use in 2013.

Those payment adjustments for EPs go into effect today, January 5. As part of the notification, these providers will receive instructions for challenging CMS’s decision. “When they receive the letter, they will receive instructions for how they can apply for reconsideration and we will be taking those applications through the end of February,” the federal agency said.

The EHR Incentive Programs entering the penalty phase of their lifecycle raises questions about the comparative effectiveness of incentives and penalties to spur EHR adoption.

In response to a question posed to EHRIntelligence.com readers — what will be the effect of Medicare payment adjustments on meaningful use-eligible professionals not participating in the program? — the ability for meaningful use payment adjusts to force eligible providers into the EHR Incentive Programs has much to do with whether those penalties prove financially harmful to a practice.

An executive of a physician practice was adamant in defending the practice’s decision to avoid meaningful use considering the size of the penalties:

Our physician is near retirement, yes, we have an EMR but it is cumbersome at best and impacts cash flow to the point we have sat it on the shelf for now. Since we will realize a 2% penalty (MU & E-scribe), and a maximum penalty out several years of 5% (at least for today?) — we have opted just to carry on! What on Earth good does it do any physician or practice really! Who wins in this reporting of all things meaningful, surely not the patient!

At some point, I sure hope they let a physician sit on the panel that creates all these rules and regulations not to mention ICD-10. At one point, it was ruled “no physician” was permitted to participate on the committee in developing those wonderful disjointed ICD-10 codes!

Medicare payment adjustments for meaningful use non-compliance can be stomached and pale in comparison to the financial impact of failing to transition to ICD-10 by October 1.

So, readers, here is another question: Are those EPs who have avoided meaningful use to this point likely to stay the course?

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