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AMA Statement on Meaningful Use Hardship Exemption Announcement

Due to significant pressure from the AMA, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the reopening of its Meaningful Use (MU) hardship exception application for physicians and hospitals to avoid the 2015 penalty. 
 
CMS' action gives physicians the opportunity to seek exemption from meeting Meaningful Use requirements in 2014 and avoid Medicare payment penalties in 2015.
 
The new deadline will be November 30, 2014.  Previously, the hardship exception application deadline was April 1, 2014 for hospitals and July 1, 2014 for physicians.
 
While all Medicare physicians have until February 28, 2015 to attest to any 90-day reporting period in 2014 to obtain an MU incentive, Medicare physicians who started the program this year were required to attest by October 1, 2014 to avoid a penalty of up to 2 percent in 2015.  Those new to the MU program can now apply for a hardship exception to avoid this penalty if they missed the October 1 deadline.  In addition, even if you are prepared to attest by February 28, 2015, you can still apply for a hardship exception as a fallback precaution to avoid the penalty.  We believe this hardship exemption will be interpreted broadly by CMS and we therefore encourage all physicians who meet the following criteria to apply by the November deadline.
 
The hardship exception, however, only provides relief from the MU penalty and will not earn you an incentive.  Meaningful Use incentives are still available for those who are able to meet and attest to the Stage 1 or Stage 2 measures by the February deadline. 
 
This reopened hardship exception period is for Medicare physicians and hospitals that:

  • Have been unable to fully implement 2014 Edition CEHRT due to delays in 2014 Edition CEHRT availability; and
  • Physicians who were unable to attest by October 1, 2014 and hospitals that were unable to attest by July 1, 2014 using the flexibility options provided in the CMS 2014 CEHRT Flexibility Rule.

The CMS 2014 CEHRT Flexibility Rule allows physicians to use older certified EHR technology (Version 2011), a combination of old and new technology (Version 2011 and Version 2014), or just new technology (Version 2014) to attest for their 2014 reporting period. A more in-depth review of the rule can be found on the AMA website under "Avoiding meaningful use penalties / Hardship Exceptions." Unfortunately, the CMS system was not ready to accept attestations by the October 1, the last date Medicare physicians new to MU could attest to avoid a penalty.  This is part of the reason why CMS elected to re-open the hardship filing period, ensuring more doctors avoid a 2015 penalty.
 
For more information, and for a link to the hardship exemption application, visit the CMS website.

Below is the AMA press statement.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 7, 2014
 
AMA Statement on Meaningful Use Hardship Exemption Announcement
Statement attributed to:
Robert M. Wah, MD
President, American Medical Association
 
"The American Medical Association (AMA) is pleased that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has taken a step towards addressing AMA concerns and has decided to reopen the Meaningful Use hardship submission period.  Medicare physicians who were unable to fully implement their new certified electronic health record software due to delays in receiving it and who were unable to successfully attest by the October 1 deadline can apply for the exception through November 30th. This change will allow more physicians to avoid an unfair Meaningful Use financial penalty in 2015.
 
"Giving physicians more time to file for a hardship exemption provides necessary relief as many physicians are struggling to meet a number of reporting mandates to avoid multiple penalties.
 
"The AMA remains committed, however, to ensuring that the Meaningful Use program requirements are in fact meaningful and deliver the intended improvements in patient care and practice efficiencies. We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to make the program requirements more flexible and ensure physicians have certified products that better support their practices and patients' needs."


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