The American Medical Group Association is hailing a recent effort among Senate lawmakers to ensure that provider-based groups are eligible to receive electronic health record incentive payments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus law.
On Feb. 9, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and 18 other lawmakers sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, expressing disappointment over the fact that a CMS proposed regulation would exclude provider-based organizations from receiving stimulus law-based incentive payments.
These funds were designed to stimulate widespread adoption of EHRs and to reward medical groups and other providers that were early adopters of this technology.
The letter said the proposed rule was narrowly drawn and contrary to clear congressional intent, which was to expressly exclude physicians who furnish most of their services in a hospital setting, from these bonus payments. “This policy does not disqualify otherwise eligible professionals merely on the basis of some association or business relationship with a hospital,” the letter said, citing language from the stimulus conference report.
Congress, in other words, “didn't intend for provider-based doctors providing office/ambulatory services to be excluded but CMS didn't see it that way,” said Chet Speed, the AMGA's vice president for public policy.
The letter went on to say that excluding provider-based organizations “would penalize some of the nation's pioneers of EMR use,” including Henry Ford Health System, Detroit; the University of Michigan Medical School and Faculty Group Practice, Ann Arbor; the Billings (Mont.) Clinic; the Cleveland Clinic; Innovis Health, Fargo, N.D.; and Geisinger Health System, Danville, Pa., among many others.