CMS to Briefly Reopen Submission Period for Meaningful Use Hardship Exceptions

October 8, 2014 David Holtzman

Meaningful Use Hardship Extended Until November 30, 2014

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will allow hospitals and physicians that are unable to demonstrate meeting Meaningful Use requirements to submit hardship exception applications through November 30, 2014. The deadlines had already passed for hardship exception applications for all eligible hospitals (EH), critical access hospitals (CAH) and eligible professionals (EP) that were unable to demonstrate Meaningful Use of Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT).

In order to meet Meaningful Use, physicians and hospitals have to meet requirements to implement Certified Electronic Health Record Technology and attest to their Meaningful Use (MU) objectives and measurements to avoid 2015 Medicare, Part B payment adjustments, which would start to reduce reimbursements by one percent in 2015 and could eventually go as high as five percent.

The action to reopen the application period for the hardship exception was taken by CMS through discretion given the agency to consider, on a case-by-case basis, hardship exceptions for EHs, CAHs, and EPs to delay the imposition of the payment adjustments.

The new application submission period is meant for:

  • EPs and EHs that have been unable to fully implement 2014 Edition CEHRT due to delays in 2014 Edition CEHRT availability
  • EPs who were unable to attest by October 1, 2014, and EHs that were unable to attest by July 1, 2014, using the flexibility options provided in the CMS 2014 CEHRT Flexibility Rule

The reopening of the application period for consideration of the Meaningful Use hardship exception is in addition to the recently issued final rule providing relief to hospitals and physicians that could not fully implement CEHRT in 2014 and continued to use a 2011 CEHRT, or a combination of 2011 & 2014 CEHRT for the 2014 Meaningful Use reporting period. The provider would attest to the stage of Meaningful Use based on the edition of the CEHRT they have implemented. For example, a hospital that was not able to implement 2014 edition CEHRT in its 2014 reporting year would not have the capability to attest to stage 2 objectives and measures. Therefore, in 2014 this hospital would now be permitted to continue attestation to stage 1 measures and objectives.

These physicians and hospitals will be allowed continued use of the 2014 criteria in 2015. This option is available only for providers who can attest that they were unable to fully implement a Certified EHR Technology in 2014 because of delays caused by the availability of the 2014 certified version of their EHR caused by their vendors.

The provider would then attest to the stage of Meaningful Use based on the edition of the CEHRT they have implemented. For example, a hospital that was not able to implement 2014 edition CEHRT in its 2014 reporting year would not have the capability to attest to stage 2 objectives and measures. Therefore, in 2014 this hospital would be permitted to continue attestation to MU stage 1 measures and objectives.

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