Meaningful Use expands to include more critical access hospital docs

Physicians working in the outpatient departments of critical access hospitals who submit claims under "method 2" now will be able to participate in the Meaningful Use incentive program, according to a new fact sheet released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

CAHs can elect to bill Medicare under more than one option. In the "method 2" option, eligible professionals can choose to assign their billing rights for outpatient services to the CAH. The services are still billed using Medicare's physician fee schedule, but the CAH bills on behalf of the physician using a hospital inpatient billing UB-04 form, not the HCFA 1500 form typically used for billing outpatient services. 

CMS had not originally included these physicians in the program because they were seen as "hospital based" and thus not eligible. The American Hospital Association and other groups previously had pointed out that the exclusion was unfair; AHA sent a letter Jan. 9 to CMS reiterating its concern about the exclusion. CMS now is instituting system changes so that those physicians can attest.

However, the changes won't be made in time for 2013. The earliest such physicians can submit their attestations will be January 2014. CAH-based physicians will be eligible for a maximum of $39,000 under the Medicare incentive program, according to CMS' fact sheet.

This is not the first time that CMS has expanded the program to include more providers. The most recent expansion occurred in August 2012, when the final rules implementing Stage 2 of Meaningful Use expanded the Medicaid incentive program to include several children's hospitals that previously had been excluded. Other initiatives have attempted to expand the program further to cover other provider groups, such as physician assistants and safety net clinics.

To learn more:
- here's the new fact sheet
- read AHA's letter

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