EHR Meaningful Use Penalty Will Hit 257,000 Clinicians in 2015

December 17, 2014

The Medicare program will penalize more than 257,000 physicians and other healthcare providers 1% of their pay next year for failing to achieve meaningful use of electronic health record (EHR) technology in previous years, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today.

CMS will begin sending letters to these clinicians about the penalty in the next several weeks.

The medical profession has known from the launch of the government's EHR incentive program in 2011 that bonuses for using the technology in a meaningful way — specifically, to improve the quality of care and lower costs — would give way to penalties beginning in 2015 for those who don't measure up. However, the number of clinicians whom CMS intends to dock surprised the American Medical Association (AMA).

"The AMA is appalled by news from CMS today that more than 50% of eligible professionals will face penalties under the meaningful use program in 2015, a number that is even worse than we anticipated," said Steven Stack, MD, the AMA's president-elect, in a statement.

At its interim annual meeting in Dallas last month, the AMA House of Delegates adopted a resolution urging CMS to suspend all meaningful use penalties. Like other medical societies, it has complained that meaningful use requirements established by CMS are too difficult for many, if not most, physicians to meet.

Organized medicine also decries the program's all-or-nothing approach to success. A physician can ace 99% of the requirements and still get penalized for flunking the remaining 1%, said Robert Wergin, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, in an interview with Medscape Medical News.

Dr Wergin said that, based on his members' struggles to master meaningful use, he is not surprised by the number of providers who will be subject to the penalty. "It doesn't seem low to me," he said.

David Kinsman, a spokesperson for the American College of Physicians, told Medscape Medical News that his group is "very concerned" about today's CMS announcement.

"We are continuing to advocate with the administration and Congress for changes to make the program more appropriate, realistic, and less burdensome," said Kinsman.

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