Meaningful Use Hardship Exception Deadline Approaches

Apply for Meaningful Use Hardship Exception by March 15!

It’s no secret the Texas Medical Association has been less than thrilled with the meaningful use electronic health record (EHR) incentive program. For starters, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) did not publish the modification rule for Stage 2 meaningful use until Oct. 16, 2015. As a result, eligible professionals weren’t informed of the revised program requirements until fewer than the 90 required days to attest remained in the calendar year. That left them at risk for a penalty. CMS vowed to grant hardship exemptions for 2015 for those eligible physicians who were unable to attest due to the lateness of the rule. In December, Congress adopted S 2425, known as the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, which allows one exception form for individual physicians and groups so they can list all physicians and other health professionals who are claiming the same exemption category.

If the 2015 meaningful use modification rule delay prevented you from meeting the criteria for the 2015 reporting year, listen up. You need to review the hardship application categories to see if any of them apply to you. Categories include:

Insufficient Internet connectivity,
Extreme and uncontrollable circumstances,
Lack of control over the availability of certified EHR technology, and
Lack of face-to-face patient interaction.
An exemption will have an impact on your 2017 payments only. You must reapply for exemptions each year.

You have until March 15 to submit the hardship application. CMS provided some additional information on the hardship exception instructions.

The American Medical Association encourages all physicians participating in the 2015 Medicare meaningful use program to apply for the hardship. Applying for the hardship will not prevent a physician from earning an incentive. It simply protects a physician from receiving a meaningful use penalty. Therefore, physicians who believe that they met the program requirements for the 2015 reporting period should still apply for the hardship protection.

If you have questions about the hardship exceptions, contact TMA’s Health Information Technology Department by calling (800) 880-5720 or by email.

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