Nearly one year ago, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) opened the attestation period for eligible providers and hospitals to meet the electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use standards, a requirement to qualify for incentive payments from CMS. Obtaining these incentives meant that providers needed to meet the Stage 1 meaningful use criteria, with the idea being that more rigorous standards to remain a meaningful EHR user would be required at later dates as the second and third stages of meaningful use criteria were issued. CMS has now released a proposed rule on the Stage 2 requirements. The proposed Stage 2 rule represents an incremental advance from Stage 1. The proposed rule also offers an extended timeline to use the more familiar Stage 1 criteria for those participants who have already successfully demonstrated meaningful use.
The Stages of Meaningful Use
In 2009, when Congress passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, it set aside nearly $30 billion for direct incentives for providers that demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology by achieving objectives set by CMS. These incentive payments would be paid to providers and hospitals in a phased approach - beginning with the available technology capabilities and building up to a more robust definition of meaningful use as technology and capabilities evolved. Stage 1 sought to incentivize providers to begin the transition of paper medical records to the electronic format. Eligible EHR users who qualified for the first stage of the Medicare EHR incentive program have already received payments. As of February 2012, a total of $3.1 billion in incentives have been paid to nearly 2,000 hospitals and more than 41,000 physicians. Those providers who have not yet participated may have been waiting for EHR systems to become more affordable and to see how CMS expands the Stage 1 requirements in Stage 2.
Introducing: Stage 2
The proposed Stage 2 criteria represent a logical extension of the Phase 1 requirements. The proposed regulations outline the projected standards to qualify for an incentive payment, as well as introduce changes to the meaningful use criteria, payment adjustments and program timeline. Notable provisions include:
Mark Your Calendar
The proposed Stage 2 criteria are open for public comment until May 7, 2012, with Stage 2 beginning on October 1, 2013, for hospitals, and January 1, 2014, for physicians. Additionally, CMS anticipates updating Stage 3 criteria with another proposed rule by early 2014. Comments to CMS are the best way to let the agency know about challenges faced by providers under the agency’s proposed regulations.
If you have questions about the EHR incentive program or the Phase 2 regulations, please contact Jesse Berg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612.632.3374.
This article is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. You are urged to consult a lawyer concerning any specific legal questions you may have.
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