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— Mary Money, MD, FACP, Hagerstown, Maryland

 

Hardship Exemption – what it means for you in 2016

The hardship exemption can be used by an eligible professional (EP) who qualifies for the CMS EHR Incentive program, but made the decision not to, or faced, hardships in trying to attest to the Meaningful Use measures. Taking the exemption means the EP will avoid the penalties associated with not participating in Meaningful Use (though you will not get an incentive payment).

The new exemption process has been streamlined as a result of the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act (PAMPA), which went into effect on December 2015. CMS notes on their website that the streamlined hardship application reduces the amount of information that eligible professionals must submit to apply for an exception.

If you did not attest to Meaningful Use in 2015, there is still time to apply for a hardship exemption and avoid a penalty that will be applied to your 2017 payments. The hardship exemption application for the 2016 exemption is due by July 1, 2016.

 Eligible professionals may apply for this exemption for the following reasons:

  • Insufficient Internet Connectivity – The EP was located in an area without sufficient internet access to comply with the meaningful use objectives requiring internet connectivity, and faced insurmountable barriers to obtaining such internet connectivity.
  • Extreme and/or Uncontrollable Circumstances - The EP faced extreme and uncontrollable circumstances that prevented the EP from becoming a meaningful EHR user. Examples in the application include disaster (i.e. tornado, flood), practice closure, bankruptcy or debt restructuring, and EHR Certification/Vendor Issues (i.e. the EP's EHR vendor was unable to obtain 2014 certification or the EP was unable to implement Meaningful Use due to 2014 EHR certification delays).
  • Lack of control over the availability of Certified EHR Technology - The EP must demonstrate that he/she practices at multiple locations and is unable to control the availability of Certified EHR Technology at one such practice location or a combination of practice locations, and where the location or locations constitute more than 50 percent of patient encounters. 
  • Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction - In order to be approved for this hardship exception, during the past 1 or 2 calendar years (2014 and 2015) preceding the payment adjustment year (2016), the EP’s practice must have involved a complete lack of face-to-face patient interaction and follow-up or that the cases of face-to-face interaction and follow-up were extremely rare and not part of the EP’s normal scope of business.

Click Here for the application.

Does Amazing Charts offer educational resources about Meaningful Use or help with attestations?

A variety of features and services are available to you: