The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) has extended the deadline to July 1 for eligible professionals (EPs), eligible hospitals (EHs), and critical access hospitals (CAHs) to apply for a Medicare Electronic Health (EHR) Incentive Program Hardship Exemption.
While the originial deadline was March 15 for EPs, and April 1 for EHs and critical access hospitals, CMS is extending the deadline so providers have sufficient time to submit their applications to avoid adjustments to their Medicare payments in 2017.
In late December, President Obama signed a new hardship exemption bill into law, designed to make it easier for healthcare providers to receive hardship exemption from financial penalties for failing to meet Stage 2 meaningful use EHR requirements.
The legislation enables CMS to grant hardships not just on a case-by-case basis, but also to 'categories' after which time CMS would still have the case-by-case authority to grant hardship exemptions. Prior to this law, CMS was required to review all applications on a “case-by-case” basis.
The new, streamlined hardship exception application forms reduce the amount of information that eligible professionals (EPs), eligible hospitals, and CAHs must submit to apply for an exception. The new applications and instructions for providers seeking a hardship exception are available here.
Hardship Exception and Attesting to Meaningful Use
Eligible providers who submit a hardship exemption application may still attest to meaningful use and receive incentive payments if their attestation is successful.
CMS released a new frequently asked question regarding hardship exemption applications.
CMS says providers who cannot attest for a 2015 reporting period or who believe their attestation may be unsuccessful may apply for the hardship exemption to avoid a payment adjustment in 2017. However, if a provider who applied for a hardship exemption still successfully attests to meaningful use, they will receive a payment incentive.