Groups express disappointment, frustration with MU penalties

The words "concerned," "appalled" and "disappointed" sum up reaction from many in the industry to this week's news from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that about 257,000 Medicare eligible professionals (EPs) will be hit with penalties for failing to meet Meaningful Use requirements.

Leaders of organizations including the American Medical Association (AMA), the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) voiced their frustrations at the news in online announcements and statements.

"The American Medical Association is appalled by the news from [CMS] ... the Meaningful Use program was intended to increase physician use of technology to help improve care and efficiency," AMA President-Elect Steven Stack said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the strict set of one-size-fits-all requirements is failing physicians and their patients."

EPs needed to demonstrate Meaningful Use on or before Oct. 1, 2014, to avoid the penalty. Starting this week, the agency is mailing letters out to those EPs affected by the penalty, CMS announced.

The AHA's director of policy for health information technology also did not mince words about the organization's disappointment in the announcement.

"These wide-spread physician penalties reflect the many challenges providers face with the Meaningful Use program," Chantal Worzala said in a statement. "Hospitals cannot be successful without their physician partners. It is time for CMS to address providers' concerns about the program."

Jeff Smith, vice president of public policy at CHIME, told FierceHealthIT in an email that the CMS announcement validates the organization's calls for more flexibility in the program.

"CHIME and several other provider organizations have long warned the administration that MU success, and all of the downstream benefits of health IT, depend on widespread participation," he said. "These numbers are proof that the long-term sustainability of the program is in jeopardy."

In addition, the Medical Group Management Association is also concerned about the number of EPs subject to penalties, MGMA senior policy adviser Robert Tennant wrote in an email to FierceHealthIT.

"The distressingly high number ... is a strong indication that the Meaningful Use program requires immediate modification," he said. "Physician practices and their vendor partners are clearly facing enormous challenges in meeting the program's overly onerous requirements. It is time for the administration to take action to get the Meaningful Use program back on track and better facilitate the transition to these important technologies."

This comes on the heels of lackluster attestation numbers to MU Stage 2 announced in early November. As of Nov. 1, 43,898 eligible professionals and 1,903 eligible hospitals attested for the 2014 reporting period, despite the fact that more than 500,000 active registrants signed up for the Meaningful Use program.

To learn more:
- check out the CHIME statement
- here's the AHA's statement
- read the AMA's announcement

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