CMS Reopens Meaningful Use Hardship Exception Submission Period

New Deadline to Beat Is Nov. 30

October 08, 2014 03:00 pm News Staff

Finally, a bit of bright news for family physicians struggling to comply with meaningful use attestation regulations: Those who missed the hardship exception deadline in July have been given a reprieve.

[Breaking News]

On Oct. 7, CMS announced( that it had reopened the submission period and would accept hardship applications from eligible professionals and hospitals until Nov. 30 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Specifically, CMS is giving physicians and hospitals who have not been able to demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT) another chance to avoid being penalized with a reduction( in their 2015 Medicare payments.

Note these special circumstances: The new deadline applies to eligible professionals and hospitals that were unable to fully implement 2014 edition CEHRT due to lack of availability of the technology.

Furthermore, according to CMS, physicians and other health care professionals who were unable to attest by Oct. 1, 2014, using the "flexibility options" provided in CMS' 2014 CEHRT Flexibility Rule( also are eligible to apply for an exception during the reopened submission period, as are eligible hospitals that were unable to attest by July 1, according to the same CEHRT rule.

The AAFP has been relentless in its advocacy efforts to ensure that physicians have a fair shot at complying with meaningful use regulations and avoiding meaningful use penalties -- especially in light of various miscalculations made by CMS.

For instance, way back in June,(2 page PDF) the AAFP was calling on CMS to act prudently and make timeline adjustments to the meaningful use attestation process.

More recently, the AAFP joined more than a dozen other stakeholder organizations in a Sept. 15 letter(3 page PDF) urging CMS to tweak meaningful use timelines and give physicians more flexibility regarding participation in Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs.

And then on Sept. 23, the AAFP fired off its own letter(2 page PDF) to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, M.A., pointing out a technical glitch with the agency's meaningful use attestation portal. "Due to the lack of an upgraded CMS portal, some of our members may be improperly penalized in 2015," said AAFP Board Chair Jeff Cain, M.D., of Denver, in that correspondence.

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