CMS Clarifies Flexibility on Meaningful Use Exceptions

February 24, 2016 11:08 am News Staff

CMS recently cleared up a question about hardship exception applications related to the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program that may have kept some family physicians from applying for an exemption.

On Feb. 23, the agency updated a list of frequently asked questions about the program to include a query asking if submitting a hardship application would disqualify a program participant from attesting for the 2015 EHR reporting period and thereby negate any possibility of receiving a bonus payment.

CMS' response( is clear and concise: "No. Submission of a hardship exception application does not prevent a provider from attesting and receiving an incentive payment if meaningful use requirements are met."

The response also reminds physicians that if they meet the March 11 attestation deadline and are successful in their attestation efforts, they can avoid a 3 percent Medicare pay cut in 2017.

Then this statement from CMS took the discussion one step further: "If a provider cannot attest for a 2015 reporting period or believes their attestation may be unsuccessful, the provider can apply for a hardship exception to avoid the payment adjustment in 2017."

In short, with this FAQ post, it appears that CMS has given physicians permission to use the hardship exception as a safeguard against the assessment of that looming meaningful use penalty.

So, family physicians, hedge your bets.

Submit your meaningful use hardship applications by the March 15 deadline as insurance against a Medicare pay cut down the road.

It may be time well spent.

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Additional Resources
CMS: Payment Adjustments and Hardship Information(

CMS: EHR Incentive Programs(