CMS Extends Medicare Meaningful Use Deadline

Eligible healthcare professionals participating in the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program 2014 reporting year will have additional time to attest to meaningful use, according to an announcement from CMS.

Eligible healthcare professionals participating in the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program 2014 reporting year will have additional time to attest to meaningful use, according to an announcement from CMS.

The new deadline of 11:59 pm ET on March 20, 2015, will give providers extra time to submit meaningful use data, although CMS urges them to begin attesting for 2014 as soon as possible.

According to the announcement, eligible professionals will also be able to use the extra time to switch programs from Medicare to Medicaid or vice versa if they have not already done so. However, this extension does not affect deadlines for the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.

CMS had extended the deadline for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) back in November 2014. The agency gave hospitals an extra month to attest to meeting meaningful use requirements in order to receive incentive payments. Eligible hospitals and CAHs that did not meet meaningful use requirements will see payment adjustments beginning on October 1, 2015.

CMS has been under pressure from healthcare associations to make changes to the EHR Incentive Programs. In December, CMS announced that more than 50% of eligible providers would be penalized 1% of pay in 2015 because they were unable to meet meaningful use requirements. This prompted backlash from the American Medical Association (AMA) and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), which have called for increased flexibility in the program as a result of the disheartening numbers.

In January, CMS also announced it intended to shorten the EHR reporting period for 2015. Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, deputy administrator for innovation and quality and chief medical officer for CMS, wrote in a blog post that CMS intended to shorten the reporting period to 90 days.

While the AMA was happy to hear the news, its president-elect released a statement February 11 because recent data showed that more than three-quarters of eligible professionals have been unable to attest to meaningful use.

"The program's one-size-fits-all approach, that has not been proven to improve quality, has made it difficult for physicians to take part,” Steven J. Stack, MD, president-elect of the AMA, said in a statement. “The penalties physicians are facing as a result of the Meaningful Use program undermine the program's goals and take valuable resources away from physician practices that could be spent investing in better and additional technologies and moving to alternative models of care that could improve quality and lower costs.”