For over 171,000 Medicare eligible professionals, it won’t be a happy new year for about, who will be experiencing a 3% payment reduction in the year of 2017 under the Medicare Electronic Health Record Incentive Program for failing to indicate meaningful use in the year of 2015. That is the official figure given by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
CMS fact sheet indicates, “An EP that didn’t victoriously demonstrate meaningful use for an applicable EHR reporting period in the year of 2015 will get a reduction in their Medicare Physician Fee Schedule payments for covered professional services in calendar year 2017.”
Although, CMS was quick to note that 171K EPs negatively affected in the year of 2017 is down necessarily from the 257,000 and 209,000 that were penalized in the time period of 2015 and 2016, respectively. Nevertheless, the 3% downward payment adjustment in 2017 is more than the 2% reduction in the year of 2016.
Robert Tennant, director of health IT policy at the Medical Group Management Association says, “It’s disappointing that, despite the fact that Congress approved legislation and CMS executed a hardship exception deployed on the fact that the agency issued the final rule after the beginning of the final reporting period, an important number of physicians will be subject to the 2017 penalty,”
Tennant further added, “This 171K figure recommends that CMS wrongly educated the physician community on this latest hardship exception.”
An executive at one of the nation’s greatest physician groups said he wasn’t surprised by the numbers issued by the agency.
The executive, who refused to be identified, said “After talking to policy people, we hoped the numbers to be lower than in past years, provided the simple ‘check the box’ hardship exemption for the 2015 program year, released as a result of the final rule coming out so late in 2015,”
The executive added, “It’s lower than past years, but possiby not as low as we would have expected or liked. Over 209,000 EPs were penalized in 2016—almost 2 out of every five EPs. In the year of 2015, it was 257,000. So the figures are going down, but it is still actually very challenging for physicians. Part of the issue is all the changes that keep occurring from year to year. Then, we’ve to send out messages late in the year about how to comply.”
But, the great news is that relief is in sight. In accordance to CMS, the Medicare payment adjustments started on Jan. 1, 2015, for EPs and will end in 2018, in accordance with the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).