Not able to meet meaningful use this year? You may qualify for a hardship exception. Eligible professionals that qualify for certain hardship exceptions can avoid the meaningful use payment adjustments in 2015 by submitting to CMS the 2015 Hardship Exception Application. CMS has permitted the EPs to apply for a hardship exception based on the following reasons:
- Infrastructure: Eligible professionals must demonstrate that they are in an area without sufficient internet access or face insurmountable barriers to obtaining infrastructure (e.g., lack of broadband).
- New Eligible Professionals: Newly practicing eligible professionals who would not have had time to become meaningful users can apply for a 2-year limited exception to payment adjustments. Thus eligible professionals who begin practice in calendar year 2015 would receive an exception to the penalties in 2015 and 2016, but would have to begin demonstrating meaningful use in calendar year 2016 to avoid payment adjustments in 2017.
- Unforeseen Circumstances: Examples may include a natural disaster or other unforeseeable barrier.
- Patient Interaction: Lack of face-to-face or telemedicine interaction with patient or lack of follow-up need with patients.
- Practice at Multiple Locations: Lack of control over availability of CEHRT for more than 50% of patient encounters.
- 2014 EHR Vendor Issues: The eligible professional’s EHR vendor was unable to obtain 2014 certification or the eligible professional was unable to implement meaningful use due to 2014 EHR certification delays. (Note that CMS has published a proposed rule regarding lack of availability of 2014 CEHRT proposing to permit EPs in certain situations to attest to Stage 1, click here for further information).
- Payment Adjustments & Hardship Exceptions Tipsheet for Eligible Professionals. This tip sheet further describes the payment adjustments and includes frequently asked questions.
The following categories of EPs do not have to apply for a hardship exception but will automatically be granted one based on their status with CMS:
- New providers in their first year (both eligible professionals and eligible hospitals).
- Eligible professionals who are hospital-based: a provider is considered hospital-based if he or she provides more than 90% of their covered professional services in either an inpatient (Place of Service 21) or emergency department (Place of Service 23) of a hospital.
- Eligible professionals with certain PECOS specialties (Anesthesiology-05, Pathology-22, Diagnostic Radiology-30, Nuclear Medicine-36, Interventional Radiology-94).
Eligible professionals that have not participated in the EHR Incentive Program in the past have the option of avoiding the 2015 payment adjustment if they successfully attest to meaningful use by October 1, 2014. Those eligible professionals that qualify for any of the above hardship exceptions and will not be able to attest to meaningful use by October 1, 2014 may still apply for a hardship exception, but must do so by July 1, 2014.
For more information about the EHR Incentive Programs and meaningful use please contact Elana Zana.