'Hardship' exemption in final eRx rule helps docs avoid penalties

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in the just-published final rule on its e-prescribing incentive program, added an important new "hardship" exemption to penalties that otherwise would hit doctors who failed to prescribe electronically by June 30, 2011.

Physicians who register to participate in the Medicare or Medicaid electronic health record incentive programs and adopt certified EHR technology will be exempted from the penalties, which amount to 1 percent of Medicare reimbursement in 2012. To qualify for the exemption, they must both register for the incentive program and provide identifying information on the EHR technology they have adopted by Oct. 1.

Other hardship exemptions in the final rule include the inability to prescribe electronically due to local, state or federal law and limited prescribing activity.

Responding to pleas from organized medicine, CMS pushed back the deadline for applying for hardship exemptions, but only by one month--from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1 of this year.

The final rule also changes the description of the technology that physicians must use for electronic prescribing so that they don't have to purchase separate systems to qualify for Meaningful Use incentives and avoid e-prescribing penalties.

To learn more:
- read the CMS final rule (.pdf)