Registration is Open for Medicare, Medicaid Incentive Programs for Health IT

CMS Expects to Start Issuing Payments in May

January 05, 2011 06:40 pm News Staff

As expected, the federal government is inviting health care providers to register for electronic health record, or EHR, incentive programs that will pay physicians, hospitals and other eligible professionals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid to adopt, upgrade, implement and/or demonstrate "meaningful use" of certified EHR technology.

"With the start of registration, these landmark programs get under way, and patients, providers and the nation can begin to enjoy the benefits of widespread adoption of electronic health records," said CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D., in a prepared statement( "CMS has many resources available to help providers register and participate, and we look forward to working with eligible professionals and eligible hospitals to facilitate the process beginning on Jan. 3 and going forward."

CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, or ONC, opened registration for the Medicare EHR incentive program on Jan. 3. The Medicaid EHR incentive program also is being rolled out Jan. 3 in 11 states: Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Other states are likely to launch their Medicaid EHR incentive programs during the spring and summer of 2011, according to CMS.

ONC Releases Final Rule for Health IT Program

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, or ONC, has issued a final rule( to create a permanent health information technology, or health IT, program that ultimately will determine which health IT products meet the government's standards for "meaningful use" and which organizations are qualified to certify health IT products.

Physicians and other health care professionals participating in the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health records incentive programs( must meet "meaningful use" standards to receive payments.

The ONC created a temporary certification program in June. That program will remain in effect through the end of this year or until a permanent program is organized. Companies must be accredited by the ONC to certify health IT products, and certification bodies will have to conduct postcertification surveillance.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 created the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health, or HITECH, Act to promote the adoption of health information technology among hospitals, physicians and other health care providers. The HITECH Act makes Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments available to eligible physicians, hospitals and other health care professionals when they adopt certified EHR technology and successfully demonstrate meaningful use of the technology in ways that improve quality, safety and effectiveness of patient-centered care.

Eligible professionals participating in Medicare can receive as much as $44,000 during a five-year period and as much as $63,750 if they participate in Medicaid during the next six years. CMS expects to start issuing Medicare EHR incentive payments in May 2011.

Physicians and other health care professionals who meet the eligibility requirements for both the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs must select which program they wish to participate in when they register. They cannot participate in both, but after receiving payment, they can change their program selection once before 2015, according to CMS.

CMS urges physicians and other professionals who are interested in participating in the incentive programs to visit CMS' website for the EHR incentive programs( The website provides general and detailed information on the programs, including tabs on the path to payment, eligibility, meaningful use, certified EHR technology and frequently asked questions.