The American Medical Association
and Medical Group Management Association
are calling on the CMS to extend the July 1 deadline for physicians and other eligible professionals participating in the federal electronic health-record
incentive payment program to file for hardship exemptions.
The call came in a joint letter Friday to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner (PDF)
In May, the CMS
and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
at HHS issued a proposed rule that would give program participants one extra year to use EHR systems tested and certified
against 2011 Edition software criteria needed to meet its Stage 1 meaningful-use
The proposed rule also would permit those providers who were scheduled to jump to the program's more stringent Stage 2 criteria in 2014 another year to stay at Stage 1.
In both instances, to obtain the extensions, providers would have to file for hardship exemptions, attesting that they had difficulties obtaining or implementing EHRs that had been tested and certified to the program's upgraded 2014 Edition software requirements.
The proposed CMS/ONC rule revision “is a much-needed modification to the program and should facilitate continued program participation for many EPs,” the AMA and MGMA letter said. “However, the timing of the proposed rule, with its July 21 closing date for public comments and publication of the final rule not expected until late summer, falls well after the July 1 date for EPs to submit a hardship exception to avoid the 2015 Medicare payment adjustment.
“With the expected delay in finalization of the rule, many EPs are unclear as to the (meaningful-use) requirements for 2014 and whether they need to apply for a hardship now before the rule is finalized,” the two associations said. They asked that Tavenner extend the hardship filing deadline “to a minimum of 30 days flowing publication of the final rule.”Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn