Physicians get partial reprieve on CMS e-prescribing penalties

Doctors who failed to do a minimum amount of electronic prescribing in the first half of 2011 will lose 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursement in 2012 if they do not qualify for an exemption. Under new proposed regulations on physician payments issued July 1, however, those docs will have a second chance to avoid penalties in 2013 and 2014, according to an article in Medscape Medical News.

To escape penalties for 2012, a physician must have written at least 10 e-prescriptions by the end of June. (An electronic prescription is defined as a computer-generated script that goes online to a pharmacy.) In contrast, a doctor must write at least 25 e-scripts in 2011 to get a 1 percent bonus in 2012 or a 0.5 percent bump in 2013.

The 2012 penalties will not apply to physicians who don't write enough prescriptions, lack prescribing privileges, or were not licensed practitioners as of June 30, 2011. Also, if a physician qualifies for an e-prescribing bonus this year, he or she will not be penalized in 2013. And the doctor will also avoid a penalty that year if he or she writes at least 10 e-prescriptions in the first half of 2012. The same rules would apply in 2014, as well.

In May, CMS issued a separate proposal on the e-prescribing incentive program. Under those proposed rules, doctors who register for the Meaningful Use program and adopt certified electronic health record technology in 2011 would be exempt from e-prescribing penalties in 2012.

In addition, CMS proposed several hardship exemptions. These include practicing in an area where few pharmacies accept online prescriptions, high-speed Internet service is limited, or state regulations prevent some forms of e-prescribing, such as e-prescribing of controlled substances.

The comment period on CMS' May proposal ends July 25. 

To learn more:
- read the article in Medscape Medical News
- see the CMS web page on the e-prescribing program 

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