CMS Now Authorized to Grant Blanket Exemptions for EPs from Meaningful Use Penalties


In late December 2015, Congress adopted a last-minute bill that allows the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) the authority to grant a blanket exemption for all eligible professional providers (EPs) from the 2015 meaningful use penalties. This action prevents CMS from implementing Medicare payment penalties for physicians who fail to demonstrate meaningful use of a certified electronic health record (EHR) system in 2015.

In order to avoid a Medicare payment reduction, physicians must attest that they met the requirements for meaningful use for a period of 90 consecutive days during calendar year 2015. Because CMS published updated regulations on October 16, 2015, eligible professionals were unable to report until fewer than the 90 required days remained in the calendar year.

CMS had stated that it would grant hardship exemptions for 2015 if providers were unable to attest due to the late publishing of the rule, but the law only authorized it to grant such exemptions on a case-by-case basis. This new law grants CMS the authority to make an automatic exemption once it receives a hardship exemption application. It also streamlines the exemption process, alleviating burdensome administrative issues for both physicians and the agency.

Under the new law, physicians are still required to file for a hardship exemption to avoid a payment adjustment for 2015 no later than June 30, 2016. CMS hardship exemption applications should be available in early 2016.