Relief May Be in Sight for Some Penalty-Threatened ePrescribers – Meaningful Use Monday

Posted on June 6, 2011 I Written By

Lynn Scheps is Vice President, Government Affairs at EHR vendor SRSsoft. In this role, Lynn has been a Voice of Physicians and SRSsoft users in Washington during the formulation of the meaningful use criteria. Lynn is currently working to assist SRSsoft users interested in showing meaningful use and receiving the EHR incentive money.

Some physicians—most notably, surgeons and pain-management specialists—have expressed concern that they will be unfairly subject to the 2012 ePrescribing penalties, based on the fact that their opportunities to ePrescribe are limited by the nature of their practices. The Proposed ePrescribing Rule published in the Federal Register on June 1 offers a potential remedy for these providers.

 The rule, which amends the (MIPPA) 2011 ePrescribing rule, affords providers several new arguments they can use to request a “hardship exemption” from the 2012 penalties. (These are in addition to the already existing reasons, i.e., rural areas that lack high speed internet access and/or rural areas that lack pharmacies that accept ePrescriptions.) The new justifications include:

      1)   Inability to ePrescribe due to local, State, or Federal law, (i.e., providers who predominantly prescribe controlled substances).

      2)   Inability to count the ePrescriptions towards the Medicare incentive program, (i.e., providers who predominantly prescribe post-surgery—visits that are not included in the specified CPT denominator codes.

How does this relate to Meaningful Use Monday? The rule also reconciles the EHR (meaningful use) incentives and the Medicare ePrescribing incentives to some extent, in an attempt to harmonize the differing ePrescribing requirements and eliminate duplicate work for providers. (See “Meaningful Use, ePrescribing, and PQRS: Need for Harmonization” and “Meaningful Use Measures: ePrescribing.”) The Proposed Rule accomplishes this through two provisions:

      1)   Providers who successfully demonstrate meaningful use in 2011, which includes ePrescribing, would be exempt from the 2012 ePrescribing penalties. (Note, however, that these providers will be trading the 1% 2011 ePrescribing bonus for avoidance of the 1% 2012 penalty.)

      2)   ePrescribing software that is ONC-certified would be deemed also certified for the purpose of the Medicare ePrescribing program.

If you’d like to submit a comment to CMS on this proposed rule (file code CMS-3248-P), you can do so by July 25.

Lynn Scheps is Vice President, Government Affairs at EHR vendor SRSsoft. In this role, Lynn has been a Voice of Physicians and SRSsoft users in Washington during the formulation of the meaningful use criteria. Lynn is currently working to assist SRSsoft users interested in showing meaningful use and receiving the EHR incentive money. Check out Lynn’s previous Meaningful Use Monday posts.