Are Retiring Physicians Eligible for Incentives? – Meaningful Use Monday

Posted on February 20, 2012 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.

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.

As the industry anxiously anticipates the Proposed Rule for Stage 2 meaningful use—likely expected during HIMSS this week—many providers are still struggling to understand meaningful use Stage 1. So while we wait for the impending news story to break, let me address another question that was recently posed by a reader. 

Q: Can a physician attest and earn a Medicare EHR incentive for his second reporting year if he will be retiring in the middle of the year? 

A: To my surprise, this situation is not explicitly addressed in the regulations. One would think that a physician who works full time for part of the year would be just as eligible as one who works part time for the full year. The retiring physician, however, faces two obstacles: 1) The regulations require that an EP report for an entire calendar year after receiving a first meaningful use payment. 2) The EP must have an active enrollment record in PECOS (Medicare) to be eligible to attest—if he retires and withdraws from Medicare, he would no longer have active status. These factors suggest that a retiring physician is not eligible for an incentive (unless, of course, he times his retirement for the end of the year!)

In lieu of a definitive answer to the question, however, I offer the following food for thought: 1) Couldn’t the retiring physician simply wait until December 31 to attest and then report on the full calendar year? 2) What if he simply postpones surrendering his PECOS enrollment until the end of the year? (According to a local Medicare contractor, nothing prohibits him from doing that even though he would no longer be submitting claims.) If there are countervailing reasons not to do this that readers are aware of—and there may well be—please share your insights by commenting below. 

(Note: This is not an issue for retiring physicians in their first incentive year since they attest immediately upon the conclusion of their 90-day reporting period.)