More Than Half of Eligible Professionals Facing Penalties Under Meaningful Use Program

In the next several weeks more than 257,000 physicians and other healthcare providers will receive notification that 1% of their pay next year will be penalized for failing to meet meaningful use, CMS announced Wednesday.

In the next several weeks more than 257,000 physicians and other healthcare providers will receive notification that 1% of their pay next year will be penalized for failing to meet meaningful use, CMS announced Wednesday.

Eligible professionals who did not meet meaningful use requirements by October 1, 2014, will be penalized beginning January 5, 2015. Of the 257,000 who will be hit, approximately 28,000 will receive a 2% penalty because they also did not meet an e-prescribing threshold.

The American Medical Association (AMA) is “appalled” by this news and by the fact that the number of eligible professionals being penalized (more than 50%) is worse than anticipated.

“The Meaningful Use program was intended to increase physician use of technology to help improve care and efficiency,” AMA President-Elect Steven J. Stack, MD, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the strict set of one-size-fits-all requirements is failing physicians and their patients. They are hindering participation in the program, forcing physicians to purchase expensive electronic health records with poor usability that disrupts workflow, creates significant frustrations and interferes with patient care, and imposes an administrative burden.”

In October, the AMA sent a blueprint for the future of the Meaningful Use program to CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, calling for changes such as a more flexible approach for meeting meaningful use and better alignment of quality measure requirements.

“The penalties physicians are facing under the Meaningful Use program are part of a regulatory tsunami facing physicians, apart from the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate formula, that could include cuts from the Physician Quality Reporting System, the Value-based Modifier Program, and the sequester, further destabilizing physician practices and creating a disincentive to see Medicare patients,” Dr Stack said.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) viewed the disheartening numbers as validation of the college’s call for increased program flexibility. Officials from CHIME, AMA, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, and the Medical Group Management Association, all have expressed concerns with meaningful use participation data in the past.

A bipartisan letter signed by 30 members of the House of Representatives is now urging HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell to shorten the meaningful use program reporting period in 2015.

“Whether by regulatory changes or legislation, CHIME will continue to fight for policies to make Meaningful Use meaningful in 2015,” Russell P. Branzell, FCHIME, CHCIO, CHIME president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

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HER Meaningful Use Penalty Will Hit 257,000 Clinicians in 2015