CMS has just announced that it will reopen the submission period for hardship exception applications for eligible professionals and eligible hospitals to avoid the 2014 Medicare payment adjustments for failing to successfully attest for Meaningful Use.

November 30, 2014, is the new deadline, according to the announcement issued today. The previous deadline was July 1, 2014, for eligible professionals and April 1, 2014 for eligible hospitals.

The reopened hardship exception application submission period is only for eligible professionals and eligible hospitals that:

  • Have been unable to fully implement 2014 Edition CEHRT due to delays in 2014 Edition CEHRT availability; AND
  • Eligible professionals who were unable to attest by October 1, 2014 and eligible hospitals that were unable to attest by July 1, 2014 using the flexibility options provided in the CMS 2014 CEHRT Flexibility Rule.  

The CMS announcement noted that “These are the only circumstances that will be considered for this reopened hardship exception application submission period. Applications must be submitted by 11:59 PM EST November 30, 2014.”

Extension not really a surprise

This extension is not really a surprise, due to all the problems facing providers in attesting to Meaningful Use. As we have noted in previous blog posts, providers have been prevented from successful Stage 2 Meaningful Use attestation because of:

In fact, there has been no notification that the problem with CMS’ Meaningful Use website has been fixed as of yet. CMS had indicated that it hoped to have the error corrected by mid-October.

CMS Exceptions page provides additional details

On its Payment Adjustments & Hardship Exceptions web page, CMS stated that if approved, the hardship exception is valid for one payment year only.  A new application must be submitted if the hardship continues for the following payment year.  In no case may a provider be granted an exception for more than five years.

Some providers will automatically be granted a hardship exception for 2015, according to CMS. CMS will use Medicare data on these providers to determine their hardship exception; these providers do not need to submit a hardship application:

  • New providers in their first year of practice (both eligible professionals and eligible hospitals)
  • Eligible professionals who are hospital-based: a provider is considered hospital-based if he or she provides more than 90% of their covered professional services in either an inpatient (Place of Service 21) or emergency department (Place of Service 23) of a hospital*
  • Eligible professionals in which 90% of their claims include Place of Service 21, Place of Service 23 and certain observation services using Place of Service 22.
  • Eligible professionals with certain PECOS specialties (05-Anesthesiology, 22-Pathology, 30-Diagnostic Radiology, 36-Nuclear Medicine, 94-Interventional Radiology) 6 months prior to the first day of the payment adjustments.

CMS advised that eligible professionals should verify that their PECOS specialty is up to date.

More information about the application process will be shared soon, according to CMS’ announcement. “We intend to address this issue in upcoming rulemaking,” the statement noted.

CMS advised providers to visit the Payment Adjustments and Hardship Exceptions webpage for more information about Medicare EHR Incentive Program payment adjustments, which will hopefully include updates as more information is available.

MediTouch is 2014 Meaningful Use certified and has been since June 2013; the only challenges faced by MediTouch users are those beyond our control.

MediTouch users: As we have written previously, if you are a Meaningful Use Stage 2 attester, we believe in most cases that the new rule supports reporting on the Stage 1 Objectives. The only obstacle to reporting Stage 2 is the failure in the healthcare ecosystem noted above. Also, there is no evidence that you will be impacted by the CMS website error.

If you are not a MediTouch EHR software user and would like information on how MediTouch can help you attest successfully for Meaningful Use, contact us today for a live, online demo.