ACCMA has received information from the CMA-sponsored California Health Information Partnership and Services Organization (CALHIPSO) that physicians who were unable to demonstrate meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR) in 2014 may be eligible to claim a hardship exemption from receiving a 2% Medicare penalty in 2016. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced additional conditions to its hardship exemptions that include:

  • If the physician’s software vendor is unable to achieve 2014 Edition certification
  • If the physician can’t get sufficient Internet access or faces other infrastructure barriers
  • If the physician is newly practicing and has not had enough time to establish meaningful use, in which case the physician can apply for a two-year exception
  • If the physician is practicing at multiple locations and has no control over the availability of certified EHR technology for more than one-half of patient encounters
  • If a natural disaster or other unforeseeable circumstance occurs
  • If a physician hasn’t had enough patient interactions to meet the threshold requirements

Some physicians, such as those new to Medicare or those in certain specialties, are also exempt from the penalty and do not need to apply for a hardship in 2014. Physicians who are not exempt and cannot meet the requirements of the program face penalties beginning next year. 

Physicians who are unsure whether they will be able to demonstrate meaningful use in 2014 may apply for a hardship exemption. If a physician applies for a hardship exemption but still attests to and meets meaningful use, the hardship exemption acts as a safety net. Learn more about exemptions in a tip sheet from CMS, and get the hardship exemption application.

For more information on Meaningful Use visit www.accma.org and click on the “PQRS Reporting Program” link under the “Hot Topics” section.