Provider groups: Extension of MU exemption efforts step in the right direction

Provider groups--particularly those representing practice managers and individual doctors--expressed optimism following the decision Tuesday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to extend the deadline for Meaningful Use hardship applications to Nov. 30.

The extension applies specifically to eligible providers who aren't able to implement 2014 editions of certified electronic health record technology due to availability issues, as well as those who could not attest via the 2014 CEHRT Flexibility Rule. The latter rule was highly criticized upon publication last month for not changing the reporting period from 365 days to 90 days, and led to some members of Congress proposing legislation calling for the shorter reporting period.

Robert Tennant (pictured), a senior policy advisor with the Medical Group Management Association, called CMS' actions "much-needed," telling FierceEMR via email that they will help EPs avoid unfair penalization in 2015.

However, he said, such fixes are not sufficient on their own.

"There is more work needed to bring additional flexibility to the Meaningful Use program," Tennant said. "We will continue to advocate for three month reporting periods in 2015 and modified Stage 2 criteria in an effort to assist providers continue moving forward with their technology deployment and toward true interoperability."

American Medical Association President Robert Wah echoed Tennant's sentiments.

"Giving physicians more time to file for a hardship exemption provides necessary relief as many physicians are struggling to meet a number reporting mandates to avoid multiple penalties," Wah said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with the administration to make the program requirements more flexible and ensure physicians have certified products that better support their practices and patient's needs.

Jeff Smith, vice president of public policy with the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, told FierceEMR in an email that while he's not sure of the impact the extension will have on hospitals, it will help hundreds of individual providers.

"It demonstrates [CMS'] understanding that EPs were between and a rock and a hard place, given the proximity of the recent final rule and some of their Oct. 1 deadlines," Smith said.

Last week, CMS revealed that it had received approximately 44,000 hardship exemption requests.

To learn more:
- here's Wah's statement

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