Want to avoid a cut in your Medicare pay next year? Certain family physicians should take heed of this fast-approaching summer deadline: July 1, 11:59 p.m. EDT.
Medicare-participating physicians who are considered "eligible professionals" by Medicare -- and who did not successfully participate in the Medicare EHR (Electronic Health Record) Incentive Program in 2014 -- have a just few weeks left to ask CMS for a hardship exception(www.cms.gov) and avoid a 2 percent cut in their Medicare payments beginning Jan. 1.
To file a hardship application,(www.cms.gov) a physician must
- show proof of circumstances beyond his or her control, and
- outline how the situation significantly impaired his or her ability to meeting meaningful use of an EHR.
Steven Waldren, M.D., director of the AAFP's Center for eHealth Innovation, stressed that family physicians can apply for a hardship exception and still try to attain meaningful use status.
"Even if you think there's a possibility you could achieve meaningful use, go ahead and apply for the exception if you meet the requirements," Waldren advised. "Just because you put in a hardship exception application doesn't mean that you can't still try to attest; the two actions are not mutually exclusive."
CMS strongly recommends that hardship applications and supporting documentation be sent electronically to avoid processing delays. Specifically, the documents should be submitted as email attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Note, too, that all documentation is required at the time of submission; additional documentation will not be accepted.
In the event electronic submission is not possible, the application and supporting documentation can be faxed to (814) 456-7132.
CMS will notify physicians by email regarding application decisions. Decisions are final and cannot be appealed.
The hardship exception applies only to the 2016 penalty; a new application must be submitted for hardship exceptions for subsequent years.
CMS points out that physicians who successfully demonstrated meaningful use of certified EHR technology in 2014 for either the Medicare or Medicaid incentive programs are exempt from the penalty and can ignore the hardship exception deadline.
Related AAFP News Coverage
Meaningful Use Stage Three
AAFP Demands Physician-Friendly MU Rules
CMS: Payment Adjustments and Hardship Exceptions(www.cms.gov)