Anesthesiologists ask for MU hardship, criteria exemptions

The American Society of Anesthesiologists has asked the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to maintain the hardship exemption for anesthesiologists beyond Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use program, and to exempt anesthesiologists from some of the Stage 2 attestation criteria.

The request was in response to a request for comment and information issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on March 7 regarding potential policy and pragmatic changes to be made to the Meaningful Use Incentive Program. ASA specifically asked that ONC extend the hardship exemption, which was created in the rule implementing Stage 2, to Stage 3 "and beyond." The exemption currently applies to anesthesiologists, radiologists and pathologists. 

ASA also asked that anesthesiologist attesters be exempt from certain criteria in Stage 2 of the program, such as providing clinical summaries and implementing drug-drug and drug-allergy interaction checks. "[T]he objective does have value for many physicians, just not for anesthesiologists," ASA President John Zerwas said in the group's letter

More than 200 comments have been submitted in response to the request for information. 

The Meaningful Use program has been modified several times since its enactment. CMS has added hardship exemptions, including one to recognize potential conflicts between the program and the e-prescribing program. The program also has been tweaked to allow additional providers--such as behavioral health physicians and some children's hospitals--to participate. 

A bill recently introduced in the House (H.B. 1309) by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) would create two new exceptions for eligible professionals. One would allow solo practitioners to qualify for a hardship exception from the program based on lack of capital and resources; the other would create a three year retirement exemption for physicians who are eligible for Social Security by 2015. 

 To learn more:
- here's the ASA's announcement
- read ASA's letter (.pdf)