Bill Would Offer More Ways To Avoid Medicare EMR Cut

Posted on June 25, 2013 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Federal lawmakers have introduced a bill which would grow the list of exemptions physicians could seek to the Medicare penalties faced by those not meaningfully using an EMR.

The bill, which was filed in the House by Rep. Diane Black (R, Tenn) would add new hardship exemptions to an existing list which would help solo practice physicians and doctors who are approaching retirement, according to American Medical News.

As readers probably know, most doctors who don’t have a meaningfully-used EMR in place by July 2014 — roughly a year from now — face cuts to to Medicare reimbursement starting in 2015.  The penalty cuts would lower Medicare reimbursement by 1 percent in 2015, and would climb to 3 percent by 2017.

Some physicians already enjoy exemptions from the cuts, AMN notes. Doctors who:

  • Have insufficient Internet access or who face insurmountable barriers to obtaining infrastructure, such as high-speed or broadband Internet.
  • Begin practicing in 2015.
  • Encounter unforeseen circumstances, such as a natural disaster or other unforeseeable barrier.
  • Lack face-to-face interaction with patients or follow-up opportunities with patients.
  • Practice in multiple locations and do not control access to EHRs during more than 50% of patient encounters.

Are already eligible for exemptions from the pending Medicare cuts, AMN reports.

The new bill would extend the above list of hardship exemptions to doctors in a solo practice. It would also offer an exemption for physicians who are 62 or older by the last day of 2015, or who will reach age 62 by 2020, according to the magazine.

It seems like the help with the cuts is needed for solo physicians in particular. According to the National Center for Health Statistics at t he CDC, only 29 percent of solo practitioners had adopted EMRs by 2011.  While that number may have climbed since 2011, solo docs are doubtless still way behind in adoption, and slapping them with reimbursement cuts simply may not make sense.