Bill Would Provide Exemptions From Meaningful Use Penalties

Posted on April 1, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 1309) which would eliminate Medicare reimbursement penalties for some physicians who don’t fully participate in the Meaningful Use program, iHealthBeat reports. The bill, which is called the EHR Improvements Act, was introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.).

As readers of this blog know, healthcare providers are being offered both a carrot and a stick when it comes to Meaningful Use compliance. On the one hand, they’re eligible for incentive payments if they can demonstrate that they’ve met Meaningful Use goals.  On the other, starting in 2015 they’ll be subject to a 1 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates every year that they don’t meet those goals, up to a maximum of 5 percent.

Rep. Black’s bill would remove the penalties for some classes of providers:

* Solo practitioners could apply for a hardship exemption from the MU program if they have limited capital, time or staff resources
* Physicians who’d be eligible to take Social Security payments by 2015 would get a retirement exemption of up to three years
* Eligible professionals who don’t fully meet Medicare Meaningful Use requirements but successfully participate in the Medicaid portion of the program would be excused from Medicare penalties
* Some physicians would be allowed to meet the MU program’s quality reporting requirements by participating in HHS-recognized disease or practice registry programs in their specialty

I don’t know about you folks, but to me these sound like sensible modifications to the Meaningful Use program. I don’t see any reason to punish impoverished solo practitioners, retiring doctors, EPs who meet Medicaid MU requirements or doctors reporting quality data through alternate channels.

Nobody out there — as far as I know — thinks Meaningful Use is perfect. Let’s hope these and other tweaks come along to avoid steamrolling those who can’t or shouldn’t have to comply with Medicare Meaningful Use completely.