A bill signed into law last month gave the CMS, hospitals, physicians and other eligible professionals, more flexibility in filing and processing exemptions from the meaningful-use requirements of the federal EHR incentive payment program.
A provision of the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act aims to “ensure flexibility in applying the hardship exception for meaningful use for the 2015 EHR reporting period,” which would affect Medicare payment penalties in 2017.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman, (R-Ohio) and carrying bipartisan support, was introduced and passed the Senate and House on Dec. 18. President Barack Obama signed it into law on Dec. 28.
Basically, the law provides the CMS with the authority to batch process hardship applications by categories instead of a case-by-case method used previously.
It also pushed back filing deadlines for hardship exemptions from Jan. 1 to March 15 for physicians and other eligible professionals and to April 15 for hospitals. Finally, it permits the CMS to accept filings for exemptions after those dates on a case-by-case basis.
The legislation comes in response to the American Medical Association and other physician and hospital groups pushing back against the timing and other requirements of the final stage of the $31.7 billion program.
The CMS released a “final rule,” including Stage 3 criteria for the EHR incentive payment program and tweaks to previous rules for Stage 2, but the recent rule also included an unusual 60-day public comment period. It was accompanied by a plea from Dr. Patrick Conway, deputy administrator for innovation and quality at the CMS, who asked critics of the program to be patient.
Conway was referring to those calling for program delays, saying it is moving too far, too fast.