E-prescribing exemption deadline extended to Nov. 1

Without a hardship waiver, physicians who didn't meet the minimum reporting requirement face a 1% Medicare penalty in 2012.

By Charles Fiegl — Posted Aug. 31, 2011

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Physicians will have an extra month to file for a hardship waiver and keep Medicare from penalizing them for failing to meet electronic prescribing requirements.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Aug. 31 finalized a rule that makes several changes to its 2011 Medicare e-prescribing initiative. CMS is using e-prescribing activity reported during the first half of the 2011 program year to determine whether an eligible health professional will see his or her 2012 Medicare payments reduced by 1%. To avoid the penalty, physicians and other professionals had until June 30 to report at least 10 e-prescriptions generated during eligible patient visits. For those who met the minimum, reporting at least 15 more such paperless drug orders before the end of 2011 makes them eligible for a 1% Medicare bonus next year.

More than 100 physician organizations, including the American Medical Association, urged CMS to change the program after initial plans were outlined in 2010. CMS responded with a May 26 proposed rule that would give physicians a second chance to avoid the 2012 penalty.

Physicians will have until Nov. 1 to report that they fall into one of six hardship exemption categories, according to the finalized proposal. In the original proposed rule, CMS had said physicians would have until Oct. 1. The exemptions are available for doctors who:

  • Registered to participate in the Medicare or Medicaid electronic medical record incentive program and have adopted certified EMR technology.
  • Were unable to prescribe electronically because of a local, state or federal law or regulation.
  • Had limited prescribing activity.
  • Had insufficient opportunities to report e-prescribing for eligible patient visits.
  • Practiced in a rural area without sufficient high-speed Internet access.
  • Practiced in an area without a sufficient number of pharmacies that accept electronic prescriptions.

"Changes in the final rule will help doctors and other health care providers in their efforts to become successful e-prescribers, ultimately leading to fewer errors and better care for patients," wrote Patrick Conway, MD, CMS chief medical officer and director of the agency's Office of Clinical Standards & Quality.

More information about the final rule from Dr. Conway is available on the CMS website (link).

Instructions on filing for an exemption will be posted on the CMS website (link).

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