***Updated to include comments from CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell***
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Friday that it will extend the deadline for eligible professionals to attest to Meaningful Use in the Medicare electronic health record incentive program for 2013 from Feb. 28 to 11:59 p.m. on March 31. The extension will not cover EPs attesting for the Medicaid program or Physician Quality Reporting Systems incentive program pilot.
"We are seeing extraordinary interest from healthcare providers participating in the Electronic Health Records Incentive Programs, and to help ensure all eligible healthcare providers are able to receive their incentive payments, we are extending the attestation deadline for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program by one month for professionals," a CMS spokesperson said in an email to FierceHealthIT. "Additionally, hospitals that may have missed their reporting deadline have an opportunity to submit their attestation retroactively."
CMS also is offering assistance to eligible hospitals that may have had trouble attesting with retroactive attestation submission to avoid the 2015 payment adjustment. Hospitals wishing to receive such assistance must contact CMS by 11:59 p.m. on March 15.
Russell Branzell, president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (pictured), told FierceHealthIT in an exclusive interview that the decision, while appropriate, has more to do with website issues on the attestation site which he likened to the technical issues experienced on HealthCare.gov.
"We heard from many of our members, specifically our policy steering committee, that they're having problems getting data in, getting stuff to work on the website, significant delays, data being put in and then being dropped off," Branzell said. "It's no different than the initial issues reported about HealthCare.gov.
"We're encouraged that they gave us 30 days," he added, "but it really had nothing to do with flexibility for the providers, but rather, flexibility for the government."
Branzell continued, saying that the extension doesn't fix any of the fundamental concerns around the need for attestation flexibility.
"It's no different than the extension on the back end of Stage 2, which really was a Stage 3 extension," Branzell said. "We still adamantly encourage CMS to create flexibility on front end reporting to allow people to focus on multiple issues simultaneously, including ICD-10."
In December, CMS proposed a one-year extension to the back end Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, while also proposing a delay to the start of Stage 3 until 2017. Many hospital CIOs questioned the move, wondering why more time was not given for providers to attest to Stage 2.
"I'm not sure this news changes anything for us," Indranil Ganguly, VP and CIO of Edison, N.J.-based JFK Health System told FierceHealthIT of the December announcement. "We would still have to comply by that timeframe or risk missing a payment cycle."