CMS glitch may cause docs to be hit by MU penalties

Some physicians may be hit with the Meaningful Use penalty next year, even if they meet the program's requirements and can attest on time, due to a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services computer problem that won't allow doctors to prove compliance by the Oct. 1 deadline, according to an article in PoliticoPro.

Physicians new to the Meaningful Use program and attesting for the first time need to submit their evidence for this year by Oct. 1. However, a CMS system update is barring them from doing so until mid-October. As a result, they will incur a penalty of their Medicare reimbursement in 2015--through no fault of their own. CMS has informed vendors of the problem but has not commented publicly, according to the article. Thousands of physicians could be affected.

To that end, Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) called on CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to give such doctors a reprieve. In a letter dated Sept. 19, they urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to "lead by example" and not penalize doctors who have been acting in good faith. They point out that "[p]roviders nationwide who have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars toward electronic health records software and hardware to comply with CMS' EHR program will now face the additional and unexpected burden of unreasonable cuts to their reimbursements--simply because of a delay in CMS system updates.

"In light of the respite your agency granted itself, it is only fair to afford the nation's healthcare providers with equal flexibility," they added.

The legislators, who also introduced the Flex-IT bill to shorten the 365-day Meaningful Use reporting period in 2015 to 90 days, reiterated in the letter their request for the shorter reporting period.

CMS has come under intense fire in recent weeks for not providing better aid to providers struggling with Meaningful Use. The new rule meant to give providers some flexibility in attestation in 2014 has been seen as inadequate; many have called for CMS to shorten the 2015 reporting period, calling the full year requirement unrealistic.

To learn more:
- check out the PoliticoPro article
- read the legislators' letter (.pdf)