Register Now For EHR Incentives

Eligible professionals (EPs) and hospitals may now register to participate in the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program and/or, in some states, the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.

On Dec. 22, 2010, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) announced that Jan. 3, 2011 marked the beginning of the open registration period for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program and also the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program in Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

“CMS has many resources available to help providers register and participate,” said CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, M.D.

Those resources include a Registration and Attestation web page maintained by CMS. Prior to registration, however, CMS recommends EPs and eligible hospitals to familiarize themselves with the incentive programs’ requirements by visiting other areas of the EHR Incentive Programs website. The site provides general and detailed information on the programs, including the path to payment, eligibility, meaningful use, certified EHR technology, and frequently asked questions (FAQs).

For example, the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Program Basics web page explains that, as written in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), EPs can receive up to $44,000 over a five-year period for Medicare or $63,750 over a six-year period for Medicaid. Eligible hospitals can earn millions of dollars for implementing and demonstrating meaningful use of certified EHR technology.

To qualify for Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive payments, EPs, hospitals, and critical access hospitals (CAHs) must:

  • Register in one or possibly both programs. Eligible hospitals may participate in both programs, but EPs who meet the eligibility requirements for both programs must choose one or the other—they cannot participate in both programs at the same time. They can, however, change their program selection once before 2015.
  • Successfully demonstrate meaningful use of a certified EHR system.

Tab over to the Meaningful Use web page and you will learn that, as specified in the ARRA, the three main components of meaningful use include: 1) the use of a certified EHR in a meaningful manner, such as e-prescribing; 2) the use of certified EHR technology for electronic exchange of health information to improve quality of health care; and 3) the use of certified EHR technology to submit clinical quality and other measures.

Meaningful use was further defined in the Medicare and Medicaid Programs; Electronic Health Record Incentive Program; Final Rule and the ONC Health Information Technology Initial Set of Standards Final Rule, both published on July 28, 2010 in the Federal Register, to specify meaningful use criteria. You’ll find these regulations on the EHR Incentive Program Regulations and Notices web page.

Other Important Dates to Remember

Click on the Spotlight and Upcoming Events link on the left side of the EHR Incentive Programs website and you’ll also earn that, in February, registration in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program will open in California, Missouri, and North Dakota.

Other important dates for the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs follow:

  • January 2011 – Some state agencies begin issuing Medicaid EHR incentive payments.
  • April 2011 – Attestation for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program begins.
  • May 2011 – Issuing of Medicare EHR incentive payments expected to begin.
  • July 3, 2011 – Last day for eligible hospitals to begin their 90-day reporting period to demonstrate meaningful use for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program for 2011.
  • Sept. 30, 2011 – 2011 payment year ends at midnight for eligible hospitals and CAHs.
  • Oct. 3, 2011 – Last day for EPs to begin their 90-day reporting period to demonstrate meaningful use for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program for 2011.
  • Nov. 30, 2011 – Last day for eligible hospitals and CAHs to register and attest to receive an incentive payment for 2011.
  • Dec. 31, 2011 – 2011 payment year ends for EPs.
  • Feb. 29, 2012 – Last day for EPs to register and attest to receive an incentive payment for 2011.

Don’t Forget RECs

ONC Coordinator David Blumenthal, M.D., in a letter posted on the ONC website, also points out the availability of Regional Extension Centers (RECs), which are in place to assist primary care physicians who need help becoming meaningful users of certified EHRs.

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