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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

CMS Again Delays Deadlines for EHR Incentive Program

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has yet again postponed deadlines for the electronic health records (EHR) incentive program. The EHR Incentive Program, also called Meaningful Use, is administered by Medicare and Medicaid and is broken into three stages to incentivize the adoption and utilization of health information technology. To complete each stage, participating providers must prove to CMS that they are completing a set number of requirements and demonstrate a meaningful use of the health information technology. Now in its fifth year, providers participating in the EHR incentive program are working to complete Stage One and Stage Two of the three stage process. The August ruling finalized three changes to the Meaningful Use program including:

  • Extending Stage 2 of Meaningful Use through 2016 and delaying the start of Stage 3, set to begin in 2016, until 2017;
  • Extending the EHR reporting period to require that providers demonstrate they are meeting meaningful use standards for a full 12 months. Current regulations consider providers to have met the standards if they demonstrate meaningful use for any 3-consecutive-month period in a year.
  • Allowing eligible providers to use 2011 Edition certified electronic health records technology (CEHRT) for the remainder of 2014 and requiring all eligible participates to use 2014 Edition CEHRT in 2015.

Despite the increased flexibility of the rule, some providers are concerned with new requirement that providers must meet meaningful use standards for the full 12 months of the year arguing the year-long process will slow down advancement through each stage of the incentive program and will drain them of necessary resources to reach and achieve Meaningful Use Stage 3 certification. In response to this aspect of the rule, Reps. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) and Jim Matheson (D-UT) introduced the Flexibility in Health IT Reporting Act (H.R. 5481) which would maintain the reporting period at its current requirement of three months. Despite a large majority of mental health and substance use providers being left out of the Incentive Program, psychiatrists are considered eligible to participate and earn incentive funds for their organizations. For information on provider eligibility, please click here.