CMS, ONC: Transition to MACRA will not mean the elimination of MU, EHR incentives


The Meaningful Use incentive program is transitioning, but it's not over, and electronic health record incentives are here to stay, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT clarified on Tuesday.

In a Jan. 19 blog post, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt and National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo noted that the Meaningful Use program had been designed to encourage adoption of new technology and measure the benefits for patients. While it helped make progress in the adoption of health IT, however, it also created concerns about the burdens on physicians and took them away from patient care, they said. Slavitt and DeSalvo noted that two events in 2015 then caused a focus away from "measuring clicks" to a focus on care: the move to have 30 percent of Medicare payments in 2016 and 50 percent of them in 2018 linked to value based care, and the enactment of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), the latter of which alters the EHR incentive program for physicians.

Accordingly, as CMS and ONC move forward, they will be guided by several "critical" principles, Slavitt and DeSalvo said, including:

  • To reward providers for outcomes
  • Allow for the flexibility to customize health IT
  • Level the technology playing field to provide innovation by unlocking electronic health information through open APIs
  • Prioritize interoperability and the real world use of technology

The pair also pointed out that it was important to remember that the current law requires the continued measurement of certified EHR technology. MACRA only addresses Medicare payments and adjustments, they said, but it will not happen overnight; in the meantime, current law, including Stage 3 of Meaningful Use, is still in effect.

They added that guidance on the new 'group' hardship exception for 2015 will be released soon.

"The challenge with any change is moving from principles to reality," they said. "The process will be ongoing, not an instant fix and we must all commit to learning and improving and collaborating on the best solutions."

Stakeholders repeatedly have asked that Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program be reconsidered. Slavitt stated at a conference last week that 2016 likely marks the end of the Meaningful Use program as it currently exists. Some have suggested that the new hardship exception indicates that Meaningful Use has run its course.

To learn more:
- read the blog post