Meaningful Use Hardship Exemption Application Due by July 1

Physicians who are not participating in the Medicare electronic health record (EHR) incentive program, also known as meaningful use, will be penalized by Medicare beginning Jan. 1, 2018. To prevent the penalty, physicians must have either attested to meaningful use by March 13, 2017, or applied for a hardship exemption by July 1, 2017.

Physicians who meet these criteria are automatically exempt from the program and do not need to file an exemption application: 

Specialties: If you're classified in the Medicare Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) as one of these five specialties, you don't need to file an exemption and will be exempt for payment year 2018:  

  • Diagnostic radiology,
  • Nuclear medicine, 
  • Interventional radiology, 
  • Anesthesiology, and 
  • Pathology.  

New to practice: If you are in your first year of practice, you do not need to claim an exemption. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) says it will know you are new to practice and will automatically exempt you. 

Hospital-based: If you perform more than 90 percent of services using place-of-service codes 21 or 23 (hospital), then you will automatically be exempt from the Medicare penalty. 

Other exemptions are available, but you must take the time to fill out the 10-page application and submit it to CMS by July 1. If more than 100 physicians are applying for the same hardship, please attach an Excel spreadsheet listing each physician’s first name, last name, and NPI.

You can apply for a hardship exemption for these circumstances:  

  • Insufficient internet connectivity: You must demonstrate that your practice is in an area without sufficient internet access to comply with meaningful use and that you face insurmountable barriers to obtain such connectivity. 
  • Extreme and uncontrollable circumstances: This exemption can be claimed in the case of a natural disaster, practice closure, or bankruptcy, or for EHR certification/vendor issues. 
  • Lack of control over the availability of certified EHR technology: You have no control over the availability of certified EHR technology in one or more practice locations where more than 50 percent of the patient encounters occurred. 
  • Lack of face-to-face patient interactions: Your specialty isn't listed above as exempt and you lack face-to-face interactions with your patients.  

Exemptions must be renewed annually, and you may not claim an exemption for more than five years.

If you never successfully attested to meaningful use in the past, but plan to report for program year 2017 (which would prevent a 2019 Medicare fee-for-service penalty) under the MACRA Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), you can submit a Transitioning to MIPS Hardship Form by Oct. 1, 2017, to avoid the penalty in 2018. 

Contact TMA's Health Information Technology Department with questions by email or by calling (800) 880-5370. 

Action, April 3, 3017

Last Updated On

April 06, 2017

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