January 26, 2016

Deadline Looms for EHR Hardship Exceptions

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) expect 209,000 health care providers to face Medicare payment reductions for failing the electronic health records (EHR) “meaningful use” requirements in 2014. CMS puts the estimated penalties at between $377 million and $700 million. Last year, 257,000 providers forfeited $200 million for failing meaningful use requirements.

But there is hope for some hospitals and other providers unable to meet the requirements. On January 22, 2016, CMS posted revised applications forms and instructions for providers claiming hardship as the cause of not meeting the requirements. In general, providers have until March 15, 2016, for submitting applications. Hospitals, including critical access hospitals, have until April 1, 2016.

One change in the application process is the acceptance of group applications: a single application for a related group of providers. Another change is the streamlining of the process by the creation of categories of exceptions, as authorized by the Patient Access & Medicare Protection Act of 2015.

The use of categories has two advantages. First, it speeds up review by freeing CMS from the obligation to review applications on a case-by-case basis. Second, the category-specific application forms give applicants a better idea of whether they qualify.

But be aware that the deadlines are approaching fast.

The announcement, together with instructions and application forms, can be found at the Medicare website, under “EHR Hardship.”

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