MU hardship exemption law shows that program has 'run its course,' says athenahealth's Dan Haley

The blanket hardship exemption for reporting year 2015 recently signed into law by President Barack Obama indicates that the Meaningful Use program has "probably passed the end of its productive life," according to a blog post from Dan Haley, senior vice president and general counsel of EHR vendor athenahealth.

In the commentary, Haley notes that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' delayed release of the rule softening the requirements for reporting in 2015 last October was "semi-insanity," and that it was not surprising that Congress came to the rescue with a law creating flexibility in obtaining a hardship exemption for failing to meet Meaningful Use in 2015. However, he says, such a blanket action indicates that the since all participating providers would qualify for the exemption, the program itself has "run its course."

"[W]hen every program participant is potentially exempt from the application of what was heretofore deemed a key component of said program, there really isn't a program any more," Haley says. "Put another way, when the exemption becomes the norm you might as well turn out the lights at MU-central and go home."

Haley recommends, however, that providers who can attest for 2015 do so rather than take the hardship exemption, since that is only a "temporary reprieve" and could be used against a provider in different contexts, such as the physician compare rating website.

The exemption is part of the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, sponsored by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio). The law enables whole categories of providers to apply for a hardship exemption. Eligible professionals and hospitals that obtain an exemption for the 2015 reporting year will avoid a 3 percent Medicare payment adjustment in 2017.

To learn more:
- read the blog post