The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has reconsidered its original position not to extend the deadline for applying for Meaningful Use hardship exemptions and reopened the application submission period through Nov. 30, according to an announcement.
Eligible hospitals (EHs) and eligible professionals (EPs) who have not attained Meaningful Use and have not been granted a hardship exception are subject to "payment adjustments" of their Medicare reimbursement beginning Oct. 1 for EHs and Jan. 1, 2015. for EPs. The previous deadlines for submitting hardship exception applications had been April 1 for EHs and July 1 for EPs.
The extended deadline applies only to 1.) providers unable to fully implement 2014 editions of certified electronic health record technology due to delays in 2014 edition certified EHR technology availability and 2.) for EPs that were unable to attest by Oct. 1 and EHs that were unable to attest by July 1 using the flexibility options in the final rule allowing for some flexibility in attesting in 2014. That rule was published in August.
CMS did not cite a reason for its decision to reopen the application period. However, the agency has been under pressure to provide more assistance to beleaguered providers who have been struggling with meeting the Meaningful Use requirements this year.
Numerous stakeholders asked CMS to extend the hardship exception application deadline because the deadlines occurred before the final rule was released, leaving providers uncertain as to how to proceed and causing the flexibility rule to be of limited benefit to providers.
Many providers have had difficulties transitioning to 2014 certification criteria, mainly because vendors have been delayed in upgrading their software. CMS changed the hardship extension applications to address this issue earlier this year. The agency reported last week that it had already received 44,000 applications for hardship exceptions.