ASNC Encourages Members to Apply for EHR Meaningful Use Hardship Exemption & Avoid Penalties

Last year, Congress passed the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, which mandated changes to the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program hardship exception process that allows eligible professionals to avoid a Meaningful Use (MU) penalty in 2017.   
All ASNC members subject to the 2015 Medicare MU program are encouraged to apply for the hardship exception. CMS has stated it will broadly accept hardship exemptions because of the delayed publication of MU program regulations.  Applying for the hardship will not prevent a physician from earning an incentive; it simply protects a physician from receiving an MU penalty. Therefore, physicians who believe that they met the MU requirements for the 2015 reporting period should still apply for the hardship protection. Note, the program operates on a two-year look-back period, meaning that physicians who are granted an exception for the 2015 program year will avoid a financial penalty for 2017.  

The application deadline for the hardship exception is July 1, 2016. 

CMS has posted a new simplified hardship exception application form. The application and instructions for providers seeking a hardship exception are available here.  The form requires providers to indicate the hardship exemption reason. The reason outlined under “2.2.d EHR Certification/Vendor Issues” is designed to serve as a “blanket” hardship exemption. 

Eligible professionals who do not successfully demonstrate MU or do not receive a hardship exemption will be subject to a payment adjustment. The MU negative payment adjustment phase for physicians started on Jan. 1, 2015. Adjustments started at 1 percent and increase each year that an eligible professional does not demonstrate MU, to a maximum of 5 percent.  The adjustment is applied to the Medicare physician fee schedule amount for covered professional services furnished by the eligible professional during the program year. It has been widely reported  that 209,000 doctors were hit with MU penalties this year.