For doctors unable to meet meaningful use requirements for 2015, Congress has approved a blanket process for those applying for a hardship exemption to avoid having a penalty applied to their Medicare payments in 2017.
By voice vote in the House on Dec. 18 and a unanimous consent vote later that day in the Senate, Congress passed the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act (S. 2425), which allows CMS to grant hardship exemptions globally, rather than on a case-by-case basis.
There are a number of reasons a hardship exemption would be issued, including infrastructure-related problems, unforeseen circumstances, lack of face-to-face interactions, and lack of available certified electronic health records.
Doctors seeking the exemption will need to apply by March 15, 2016; hospitals must do so by April 1, 2016.
“Moving forward, this process will now allow doctors to avoid erroneous penalties that would have otherwise caused harm for patients seeking quality care,” Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) said in a statement.