Meaningful Use incentive payments top $2.5 billion

Federal and state governments have paid providers more than $2.5 billion in incentive payments for meaningful use of electronic health records, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

"It's been a happy new year," noted Robert Tagalicod, director of CMS' Office of E-Standards and Services at The Office of the National Coordinator's (ONC) monthly HIT Policy Committee meeting on January 10.

Registrations for the EHR incentive programs and incentive payments have "soared" throughout 2011, said Farzad Mostashari, M.D., head of ONC and chair of the Committee.

More than 760,000 eligible professionals and hospitals registered for state and federal programs in 2011. About 124,000 registered for the Medicare program, representing about 30% of all Medicare participants, said CMS staffer Robert Anthony. About 2,800 hospitals have registered, "closing in on the three-fifths mark," he noted. Another 40,000 providers have registered for the Medicaid program in 41 states, added CMS staffer Jessica Kahn.

Both expect the numbers to continue to rise in January, especially since New York, California and Illinois are ramping up their payments.

As of January, 43 states have launched their Medicaid incentive programs and 33 are making payments, said Kahn.

All 842 hospitals who have attested to Meaningful Use under the Medicare program have done so successfully, noted Anthony; of the 33,595 eligible professionals have attested only 355 were unsuccessful.

Anthony and Kahn noted that on average attesters were reporting performance benchmarks that "greatly" exceeded the Meaningful Use thresholds but acknowledged that these high scores were from the early adopters of EHRs, the "advance guard." CMS is working hard to sustain the high trend line in 2012, said Tagalicod.

"We're really interested in what kind of trends we'll see with other providers just coming on board," said Anthony.

To learn more:
- see the ONC meeting agenda