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. The AMA believes 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 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. If you have questions or would like help in meeting Meaningful Use, please contact Terri Gonzalez (919-833-3836 x 123) the North Carolina Medical Society Foundation’s Director of Practice Improvement.