Federal EMR incentive payments are available under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) for qualifying health care providers (referred to as Eligible Professionals or EPs in the federal regulations) who install and use of EMR systems.
While a maximum of $21,250 of Medicaid EMR incentive payments are independent of EMR use, the bulk of payments under Medicaid and all payments under Medicare require “meaningful use” by an EP of an EMR system accredited by a proper certification authority. These regulations are designed to encourage widespread adoption of EMR technology and integration of these capabilities into the health care system. Rules under these two programs are the same.
Eligible Professionals can receive as much as $44,000 in Meaningful Use incentive payments over a five-year period through Medicare. Under Medicaid, Eligible Professionals (EP) can receive as much as $63,750 in EMR incentive payments over six years. Providers can choose to apply for whichever program they are eligible, but not for both.
It’s important to note that there are three stages of meaningful use, only one of which has been formalized as of January, 2012. For Meaningful Use Stage 1, which began in 2011, there are 25 objectives / measures for EPs. These have been divided into a core set and menu set, with differing requirements for hospitals and ambulatory care providers.
EPs must meet all 15 objectives/measures in the Phase 1 Meaningful Use core measures and can choose to defer up to five of 10 remaining objectives/measures. Where it is not possible for an EP to meet a specific measure, an exclusion is defined in the Meaningful Use final rule. If an exclusion applies to an EP, then that professional does not have to meet that particular objective / measure in order to be determined a meaningful EMR user.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made Meaningful Use requirements changes in late 2011 postponing deadlines for meeting standards for Meaningful Use Stage 2 until calendar year 2014. Comments for these Phase 2 rules are being accepted through February, 2012, with final rules expected to be issued mid-2012. Meaningful use reimbursements and EMR incentive payments under either Medicare or Medicaid will require ongoing evidence or attestation from health care providers.