171,000 clinicians will get hit with Meaningful Use penalties

It may not be a Happy New Year for thousands of clinicians who will take a 3% pay cut from Medicare next year for failing to demonstrate that they met federal requirements for Meaningful Use of an electronic health record system.

The bad news for an estimated 171,000 physicians, nurse practitioners and other clinicians was included in a fact sheet (PDF), released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). “There are about 171,000 Medicare [eligible professionals] subject to a downward payment adjustment in 2017 under Medicare for failing to demonstrate meaningful use,” the agency noted.

An official from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) said CMS did not allow medical groups time to meet the Meaningful Use requirements, according to Medscape (reg. req.)

Robert Tennant
Robert Tennant

The problem goes back to October, 2015, when CMS issued its final Stage 2 to achieve Meaningful Use that year and avoid a penalty in 2017, Robert Tennant, director of health information technology policy at the MGMA, told the publication. CMS said clinicians needed to meet the requirements only during a 90-day period for 2015, but fewer than 90 days were left in the calendar year.

"Frankly, it's unfair. They should have given everybody a hardship exception.”

- Robert Tennant, MGMA

Afraid that so many clinicians would face a financial penalty, Congress passed a bill in December 2015 allowing CMS to grant an exemption. But many clinicians didn’t take advantage of that exemption, Tennant told Medscape, blaming CMS for not making it known to enough physicians that the hardship exemption was available.

"Frankly, it's unfair. They should have given everybody a hardship exception,” Tennant told the publication. He said the MGMA may ask the Health and Human Services department to waive the penalty after Trump takes office next month.