About 257,000 doctors and other medical professionals, or about 50% of those eligible to participate in the electronic health record incentive program, are about to get a holiday “gift” from Medicare: a 1% reduction in Medicare pay.

The reduction will come from 2015 Medicare payments to doctors who failed to meet meaningful use requirements during a 2013 reporting period or did not receive a hardship exemption, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

The penalties apply to those who have not met Stage 1 of the meaningful use criteria, and given how few have attested to meeting Stage 2 so far, the number of doctors and providers being penalized could go significantly higher.

“It speaks to how hard it is” to meet the meaningful use criteria, commented Dr. Neil Skolnik , a family physician in Jenkintown, Penn. “What it’s creating is a lot of disgruntlement among physicians who aren’t meeting [meaningful use]. … People really resent that. They are burdened by working hard to make the [EHR] work in their office and then getting a penalty. Even though they have the [EHR], they’re not meeting all the criteria. It’s a big deal. It’s really hard on people.”

Physicians continue to press CMS to reduce the 2015 attestation period for meeting meaningful use Stage 2 to 90 days, down from the current full-year requirement.

In a Dec. 15 letter to federal officials, the American College of Cardiology said it remains “unconvinced that significant numbers of [eligible professionals] and [eligible hospitals] will be able to meet the current requirements of reporting for a full year in 2015 and urge CMS and [the Office of the National Coordinator for Heath Information Technology] to adjust the 2015 reporting period to the 90 days originally afforded to [eligible professionals] and [eligible hospitals] for 2014.”

The cardiologists added that by pushing for a full-year attestation period, “CMS and ONC are setting EPs and EHs up for failure. … It is simply too much to expect them to … meet a full year reporting requirement, especially when coupled with implementation of the penalty phase of the federal EHR Incentive program, the value-based payment program, the Physician Quality Reporting System penalties, and ICD-10 implementation.”

gtwachtman@frontlinemedcom.com

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