Congress has provided additional details for physicians wanting to claim a hardship exception from the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program, also known as “meaningful use” (MU). In December, President Obama signed into law the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act (PAMPA), which gave Congress the authority to streamline the exception process.
The updated process reduces the amount of information required to apply for an exception. For example, multiple providers can now use the same exception application. Also, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) can review applications based on “categories” rather than on a case-by-case basis. These categories include: insufficient Internet connectivity, extreme and uncontrollable circumstances, lack of control over Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT) availability, and lack of face-to-face patient interaction.
Physicians who did not successfully meet the MU requirements for the 2015 reporting year may apply for a hardship exception. If granted, the exception would protect the physician from the negative payment adjustment that would have been applied in 2017. An exception is effective for one year – physicians must reapply each year they wish to be exempted. A new eligible professional (EP) who began submitting Medicare claims in 2015 does not need to apply for an exception.
If you want to use the streamlined exception process, you need to submit your application by March 15. CMS will notify applicants of its determinations by email. All decisions are final and cannot be appealed. CMS encourages the use of the electronic application to avoid potential processing delays.
– Erin Solis, Regulatory Compliance Strategist for the American Academy of Family Physicians
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