CMS Extends Meaningful Use Reporting Deadline for Physicians

Ken Terry

February 06, 2017

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on Monday postponed the deadline for the attestation to meaningful use by eligible professionals (EPs) from February 28 to March 13. Two weeks ago, CMS did the same for eligible hospitals.

Medicare's Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program, popularly known as meaningful use, is being phased out for physicians this year. But physicians must still report on the meaningful use measures for 2016 to avoid a 3% penalty in 2018. About 171,000 physicians are expected to be penalized this year because they didn't attest to meaningful use for 2015, according to CMS.

CMS did not explain why it was pushing back the deadline for 2016 attestation. However, the agency did not specify until November that the reporting period for meaningful use was 90 days in 2016, rather than the original full calendar year. Moreover, no hardship exceptions were granted for 2016 because of the tardy announcement of the reporting period. So it is possible that CMS wants to give EPs every opportunity to attest before the window closes.

Over a year ago, Congress gave physicians some relief on meaningful use attestation for 2015, because CMS did not release its final rule on stage 2 meaningful use changes until October 2015. As a result of this law, known as the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, physicians who were unable to attest because of the late announcement of those rule changes could be spared from having to report. However, to qualify for this hardship exception, they had to request it by July 1 of last year.

For physicians who participate in the Medicare but not the Medicaid EHR incentive program, meaningful use attestation will end this year. In 2017, eligible clinicians who do not participate in the advanced alternative payment models of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act will transition to the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). MIPS is a pay-for-performance program that will pay doctors based on quality, cost, practice improvement, and the successor to meaningful use, known as Advancing Care Information.

Advancing Care Information includes fewer measures than the current program and provides more flexibility in meeting those criteria. Moreover, EPs no longer have to meet every requirement to get credit, as they did under meaningful use.

Deadlines for the Medicaid portion of the EHR incentive program vary by state, and CMS urges participating providers to check with their states on those deadlines.

If an EP is eligible to participate in both the Medicare and the Medicaid EHR incentive program, he or she must demonstrate meaningful use for 2016 to avoid the Medicare payment adjustment, CMS said. But the EP can show meaningful use under the requirements of either program.

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