Maryland's medical society, MedChi, is pushing for the federal government to delay or eliminate a provision in the federal stimulus package that would levy financial penalties on physician offices that do not transition to electronic health records by 2015, the Baltimore Daily Record reports.
Under the federal stimulus package, a physician could receive up to $44,000 over a five-year period beginning in 2011 through increased Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement payments for demonstrating "meaningful use" of EHRs.
However, in 2015, Medicare and Medicaid payments to health care providers who are not using EHRs will be reduced by 1%. Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement payments will continue to drop an additional 1% each year if health providers do not adopt an EHR system.
MedChi Executive Director Gene Ransom said that physicians in Maryland already receive low insurance reimbursements and that implementing EHR systems could be too costly.
Ransom said that the American Medical Association is scheduled to hear MedChi's concerns by Wednesday and determine whether to adopt a resolution proposed by the medical society as part of its legislative agenda.
Last month, Maryland became the first state to require private health plans to offer financial incentives to medical practices that adopt EHRs.
Ransom said, "We support the idea of health information technology, and we appreciate that money is coming from the federal government, it's just the matter of these penalties that are difficult." He warned that if more pressure is put on Maryland physicians, fewer will treat Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
Rex Cowdry, executive director of the Maryland Health Care Commission, said, "There is a six-year period before any penalties start, so there's time to reassess whether moving from incentives to penalties is the right move," adding, "At this point having really substantial incentives available for adoption in 2011 followed by modest penalties in 2015 seems like a good way of getting people to adopt tools that we need."
Rachel Bakersmith -- the administrator of Children First Pediatric, a Maryland practice that transitioned to EHRs in May -- said, "I understand the basis behind the penalty because electronic [health] records are better for patient care." However, she added, "I think at the very least it should be delayed until they get a handle on insurance companies and reimbursements" (Ulman, Baltimore Daily Record, 6/16).