This week, CMS proposed two additional hardship exemptions for its electronic prescribing incentive program, Health Data Management reports.
The two new hardship exemptions are part of a proposed rule that would establish the Medicare physician fee schedule for 2013 (Goedert, Health Data Management, 8/2).
The e-prescribing program required physicians to report submitting at least 10 electronic prescriptions by June 30 to avoid Medicare reimbursement penalties. Those who did not report at least 10 e-prescribing encounters or file for a hardship exemption in time will face a 1.5% payment reduction for all Medicare claims in 2013 (iHealthBeat, 7/9).
The e-prescribing program allowed health care providers to file for hardship exemptions if they:
- Were unable to e-prescribe because of certain laws or regulations (Health Data Management, 8/2);
- Generated fewer than 100 prescriptions during a six-month reporting period;
- Practice in an area that has a limited number of pharmacies with e-prescribing capabilities;
- Prescribe large volumes of narcotics; or
- Work in a rural area that has limited access to high-speed Internet (Daly, Modern Physician, 8/3).
The new proposed rule would extend the e-prescribing hardship exemptions to certain eligible professionals and group practices participating in the meaningful use program for the first time (Health Data Management, 8/2). Under the 2009 federal economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record systems can qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments.
In the proposed rule, CMS wrote, "We have received feedback from stakeholders requesting significant hardship exemptions from application of the [e-prescribing] payment adjustment based on participation in the [meaningful use] incentive program, a program which requires a certain level of electronic prescribing activity."
The agency added, "As a result of such feedback, we believe that in certain circumstances it may be a significant hardship for eligible professionals and group practices who are participants of the [meaningful use] incentive program to comply with the successful electronic prescriber requirements of the [e-prescribing] incentive program" (Modern Physician, 8/3).
Therefore, the two new hardship exemptions would apply to eligible health care providers who:
- Attest to meaningful use during certain payment adjustment reporting periods for the e-prescribing program; or
- Show their intent to adopt a certified EHR system by registering for the meaningful use program (Health Data Management, 8/2).