EMR Stimulus Question and Answer: Time Period for Medicare Allowable Charges

You know how I love when readers ask me questions. Especially when I can use them to create a blog post. Why you ask? Because then at least I know I’m making one reader happy. Although, if one reader had the question, it’s also quite likely that MANY more had the same question. On that note, the following is a question sent to me by Radhika:

To qualify for EMR stimulus money we need $24,000 in allowable medicare charges per physician. I am not sure whether we have to show the $24,000 over a period of 1 year or 90 days. Can you please clarify?

This is a great question. The short answer is you have the entire year to accrue the $24,000 in allowable Medicare charges that’s required to get the full EMR stimulus money in year 1 (you get paid 75% of your Medicare allowable charges up to the cap for that year).

The confusion between the 90 days and the full year stems from the meaningful use requirements. While the allowable charges can be accrued for the entire year, you only have to show meaningful use for 90 days (at least for meaningful use stage 1) of the year.

I heard one person tell me that means they can wait until October 1st to start showing meaningful use. While this is technically true, you are a brave person if you don’t start showing meaningful use until that date. I’d personally shoot for April or May. That way if you run into any troubles, you still have some room to correct any mistakes.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • Can you help out another reader with a pressing question? Where can I find a good listing of EHRs for dentists? I’m looking specifically for ONC certified products that cater to dental practices and I’m coming up short so far. I know that DDS/DMDs can qualify for incentives under ARRA and they’ll be dinged on the Medicare side if they don’t use EHRs, but how are they supposed to comply if the software’s not out there for them? I’ve talked to several vendors with ONC certification who basically said they’re ignoring dentists in their outreach/software development (due to the larger potential market for internal medicine/general practice, the specialization required for dental systems, etc). A lot of dentists have PMS that they mistakenly believe are full EHRs, but it seems like there is a huge market out there for dental EHRs that is being ignored.

  • Don’t believe dentists are included except those that perform Medicare reimbursed services in a hospital … not in an office.

    Had a source for this several months ago but don’t remember where.

    Suggest you talk to your state dental association for their perspective.

  • Suggest you consult your state association.

    Tight limits on the dental procedures which Medicare reimburses results in low EHR incentive potential. IMO.

  • I’m sure that information is still accurate. The only problem is that while dentists might be Eligible Professionals as defined by the program, the question is whether it’s reasonable for a Dentists to achieve the meaningful use objectives and get the EMR stimulus money.

    Basically, since the meaningful use objectives are so focused on primary care I wonder how easy or even possible it will be for a dentist to implement those objectives. There is a small exception that could be applied in some cases. For example, those who write very few prescriptions don’t necessarily have to ePrescribe. I’m guessing these types of exceptions might apply to dentistry.

    I’ve sent some messages out to some contacts in the dental industry. I’m waiting to hear back from them. Then, I was planning to post your comment as its own post to see what other readers of my site know about this.

    The incentive is definitely for ambulatory and not hospitals. In fact, if you only do work at the hospital you don’t qualify (ie. anesthesiologists).

    The other thing to consider is that you have to have enough “Medicare Allowable Charges” to qualify for the stimulus money. $24k in Medicare allowable charges will get you where you want to go. So, if you only have $1000 a year in Medicare, then the EMR stimulus money is likely not worth the effort since you’d only get $750. Medicaid on the other hand requires 20 or 30% of your patients are Medicaid patients (or something like that).

  • I posted this on one of your other blogs, but will add it here since this has more current dates.

    Is anyone aware how the incentive money will be disbursed? I was assuming payment would be sent in the form of a check for qualifying meaningful users, but have recently read that incentives will be paid to physicians by increasing their Medicare reimbursement by 2%. The wording in the newsletter I have states, “bearing in mind that the incentives are paid out by a 2% increase in Medicare reimbursement, this means that for a physician to get the maximum benefits of say $18,000 in one year, they need to collect at least $900,000 during the time when the 2% incentive is in force”.

    If I understand this right we could easily qualify for the incentives but never be able to recoup the full amount if its only paid out in a 2% increase to our Medicare allowable reimbursement.

    Thank you for any input you may have.

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