The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended the deadline to July 1st, 2016, for physicians to file applications for hardship exceptions to avoid Meaningful Use penalties in 2017.

In mid-December 2015, Congress adopted a last-minute bill that gave CMS the authority to grant a blanket exception for all eligible physicians who applied for an exception from the 2015 meaningful use penalties. CMS also released new “streamlined” hardship exception application forms that reduce the amount of information that eligible professionals must submit to apply for an exception. Click here to access the form and instructions.

On the application, under the “extreme and uncontrollable circumstances” category, check box 2.2.d (“EHR Certification/Vendor Issues (CEHRT Issue)") in order to avoid a penalty under the meaningful use program. CMS has stated it will not only broadly accept hardship exceptions because of the delayed publication of the program regulations, but also that it will refrain from auditing physicians who file under Option 2.2d.

Practices that anticipate meeting meaningful use requirements to qualify for a payment incentive must attest no later than March 11, 2016. The original deadline was February 29, but CMS recently announced an extension. However, CMA is encouraging ALL physicians subject to the 2015 Medicare meaningful use program to apply for the hardship exception. CMS has confirmed that applying for a hardship exception will not prevent you from receiving the incentive payment if your practice successfully attests to having met the requirement. Filing for the exception will simply prevent your practice from receiving the meaningful use penalty in 2017. For more information, see CMS FAQ #14357.

To help members navigate the hardship process, the California Medical Association (CMA) has published “Meaningful Use Hardship Exception Frequently Asked Questions.” This document answers questions about the blanket exemption, including who should apply, deadlines and more. This document is free for members in CMA's online resource library, or by calling 510-654-5383.

For questions or assistance, contact the ACCMA at (510) 654-5383 or by email at accma@accma.org.