Bill Would Provide Exemptions From Meaningful Use Penalties

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 1309) which would eliminate Medicare reimbursement penalties for some physicians who don’t fully participate in the Meaningful Use program, iHealthBeat reports. The bill, which is called the EHR Improvements Act, was introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.).

As readers of this blog know, healthcare providers are being offered both a carrot and a stick when it comes to Meaningful Use compliance. On the one hand, they’re eligible for incentive payments if they can demonstrate that they’ve met Meaningful Use goals.  On the other, starting in 2015 they’ll be subject to a 1 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursement rates every year that they don’t meet those goals, up to a maximum of 5 percent.

Rep. Black’s bill would remove the penalties for some classes of providers:

* Solo practitioners could apply for a hardship exemption from the MU program if they have limited capital, time or staff resources
* Physicians who’d be eligible to take Social Security payments by 2015 would get a retirement exemption of up to three years
* Eligible professionals who don’t fully meet Medicare Meaningful Use requirements but successfully participate in the Medicaid portion of the program would be excused from Medicare penalties
* Some physicians would be allowed to meet the MU program’s quality reporting requirements by participating in HHS-recognized disease or practice registry programs in their specialty

I don’t know about you folks, but to me these sound like sensible modifications to the Meaningful Use program. I don’t see any reason to punish impoverished solo practitioners, retiring doctors, EPs who meet Medicaid MU requirements or doctors reporting quality data through alternate channels.

Nobody out there — as far as I know — thinks Meaningful Use is perfect. Let’s hope these and other tweaks come along to avoid steamrolling those who can’t or shouldn’t have to comply with Medicare Meaningful Use completely.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • The bill covers far more than listed here and is somewhat different than the summary. For example:

    o Solo Practices. Any solo practice can apply. There is no hardship requirement.

    o Retirement Exemption. The exemption applies if the practitioner is of retirement age, not that they are retiring.

    o Hospitals. They can gain an exemption if they meet 90 percent of reporting standards.

    o Walkin Clinics. They can enter medical data in a “batch system” that later puts it into an EHR. The EHR can be anywhere.

    o Surveys. Every six months, CMS would have to survey physicians – undefined – to determine how phase three is doing.

    As is often the case with congressional legislation, there are many one or two word changes to other legislation.

  • I am a Family Practice Physician and I have spent the bulk of my career in medically underserved areas. On June 4, 2013 I will stop practicing medicine because of the burden of working as a typist instead of a physician. I am relocating to Tianjin, China where I can practice in freedom.
    If there is a provision to permit me to practice while looking patients in the eye, instead of over my shoulder as I type, I will return to practice in the United States.

  • The proposition sounds fairly reasonable. Patients are not all the same and all these MEANINGFUL USE criteria which CMS is setting up just simply DOES NOT APPLY to every single patient. That is a big issue which the physicians have to deal with. This has made life extremely cumbersome for physicians without necessarily having any better outcome for the patients.
    Unless there is more flexibility and the requirements are cut down physicians are going to be dissatisfied and disgruntled with the Meaningful use and its supposedly beneficial outcomes

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