After learning of a technical glitch with CMS' meaningful use attestation portal that potentially could land thousands of family physicians in the "penalty box," the AAFP fired off a letter to the agency urging a quick fix.
"I write to express substantial concerns over the threat that some physicians may be financially penalized in 2015 if they have not attested to being a meaningful user (of electronic health record [EHR] technology) by Oct. 1, 2014," said AAFP Board Chair Jeff Cain, M.D., of Denver, in a Sept. 23 letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, M.A.
Cain gave CMS credit for increasing physicians' attestation flexibility in the EHR incentive program final rule(www.gpo.gov) published in the Sept. 4 Federal Register; the rule allows those attesting for the first time in 2014 to use 2011 edition technology to attest to the 2013 edition of meaningful use stage one.
However, in what appears to be a major oversight, the CMS attestation portal -- a necessary online port of entry for the specific group of attesting physicians described above -- will not be upgraded and available to those users until mid-October.
"Therefore, due to the lack of an upgraded CMS portal, some of our members may be improperly penalized in 2015," wrote Cain.
Affected physicians would see a 1 percent reduction in their Medicare payments in 2015.
Cain urged CMS to either upgrade the CMS attestation portal immediately or extend the attestation timeframe well beyond Oct. 1 to allow physicians time to attest to meaningful use and avoid the 2015 penalty.
In closing, Cain said the AAFP was especially concerned that CMS could, in fact, penalize physicians who had not attested in 2014 when the very legislation that called for the creation of the incentive programs -- the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 -- specifically stated that penalties would be reserved for physicians who did not meet meaningful use program requirements in 2015.
In an interview with AAFP News, Steven Waldren, M.D., director of the AAFP's Alliance for eHealth Innovation, said this latest misstep by CMS was a good indication the AAFP had been on-target months ago when it called for timeline adjustments(2 page PDF) in the meaningful use attestation process.
"It appears that all parties involved do, in fact, need more time to get this right," said Waldren.
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