Hospital Must Pay Back $31 Million in Meaningful Use Money

Posted on November 7, 2013 I Written By

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The news just came out that Health Management Associates, Inc. (“HMA”) did not meet the meaningful use requirements necessary to receive the EHR incentive money and so they’ll have to pay back all of the money they’ve been paid by CMS. Here’s a portion of the article that details the amount they have to pay back:

The Company estimates that, between July 1, 2011 and September 30, 2013, it recognized as income HCIT incentive payments totaling approximately $31.0 million for the hospitals that did not meet the “meaningful use” criteria. Of these payments, the Company recognized as income approximately $8.3 million in 2011, approximately $17.3 million in 2012 and approximately $5.4 million in the first six months of 2013. On October 30, 2013, the Company withdrew the 11 hospitals from the HCIT programs and has repaid the majority of the funds to CMS. The Company is in the process of repaying the balance of the funds to the relevant state programs. The Company expects to re-enroll the hospitals in the HCIT programs and may be able to recoup some portion of the amounts repaid.

$31 million is a lot of meaningful use money to pay back. I’m still waiting for the details of why they failed their meaningful use attestation to come out. Although, I believe I read that the top management at HMA are gone from the company as well. So, it’s hard to say if this was a simple meaningful use mistake or if it was an intentional effort to game the EHR incentive and meaningful use system. In meaningful use stage 1 this is particularly easy to game since it was self-attestation.

I’m sad to say that I wrote about the potential of having to payback EHR incentive money previously. Plus, as I mention in that article, HMA will now be subject to the EHR penalties as well if they don’t get things corrected before those go in place. Of course, in my post I discuss organizations that make a good faith effort to attest to meaningful use. We’ll see if HMA made a good faith effort or not. Either way, this is an important warning for those organizations that aren’t doing everything they can do meet the meaningful use guidelines.

One EHR expert I spoke with about this situation said, “It’s not the last of such announcements I expect to come out in the next few months.” I’d only modify that to say “in the next few years.” If organizations had problems with meaningful use stage 1, you can be sure the problems will be multiplied with MU stage 2 and 3.

The problem is that if too many more stories like this come out it’s going to take a program that was suppose to incentivize EHR and make it into a weight around the neck of EHR implementations.