Hardship Exemption Signed into Law by Obama

300Legislation was recently passed which will allow hardship exemptions from financial penalties for failing to meet Stage 2 meaningful use electronic health record (EHR) requirements in 2015.  Spearheaded by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.)  and as reported on Practice of the Future, “A patient-centered health care system relies on the principles of quality and responsiveness. The recent Modifications Rule for Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use Program for Electronic Health Records failed to offer physicians and hospitals with enough time to actually comply with the new requirements. Due to the tardiness of the final CMS rule, it is virtually impossible for doctors to meet the requirement deadlines. This much needed relief will make the hardship application process much easier for doctors to avoid penalties stemming from the Administration’s mistake, and thereby provide more time to care for patients.”

Leslie Krigstein, Vice President of congressional affairs at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), said the bill will allow providers flexibility and help CMS better facilitate the process of granting hardship exemptions. However, she noted that the law does not address other areas of concern such as reporting periods, quality measures and the pass-fail construct.

The hardship exception is valid for 1 payment year and a new application must be submit if the hardship continues for the next payment year. A provider will not be granted an exception for more than 5 years. Allowable reasons for the application include; Insufficient Internet Connectivity and Disaster, CAH Closure, Bankruptcy or Debt Restructuring, or EHR Certification/Vendor Issues and the actual application can be found on the CMS site. The flexibility doesn’t extend beyond the 2015 reporting period and the hardship exemption does not pause, delay or end Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program, which is still on track.

The Department of Health and Human Services stated that Stage 3 rules ease the reporting burdens, simplify requirements, add flexibility, support interoperability and improve outcomes as well as transitioning to a new and more responsive regulatory framework.

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