Deadline To Apply for ‘Hardship Exception’ for 2015 Meaningful Use Requirements Is July 1, 2016

June 17, 2016Alerts Health Law Alert

Are you concerned that your practice or certain eligible professionals in your practice may have been unable to meet the electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use requirements for the 2015 reporting period? If so, now is the time to determine whether a hardship exception may apply.

The deadline for providers to file a hardship exception application for the 2015 reporting period is July 1, 2016. If granted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the hardship exception allows a provider to avoid payment adjustments for noncompliance during the 2015 reporting period.

The original deadline to apply for a hardship exception was March 15, 2016, but CMS extended the deadline to July 1, 2016. The extension reflects a greater effort by Congress, through the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 114-115 (enacted Dec. 28, 2015), to assist providers and hospitals that had struggled to upgrade electronic health records systems during the 2015 reporting period.

As a result of the Act, CMS now has broader authority to grant automatic hardship exceptions to categories of providers. It exercised that authority by granting hardship exceptions without the need to file an application to the following provider categories:

  • Eligible Professionals registered in the Medicare Provider Enrollment, Chain and Ownership System (PECOS) using the following specialty codes for their primary practice area:
    • Anesthesiology (Code 05)
    • Diagnostic Radiology (Code 30)
    • Interventional Radiology (Code 94)
    • Nuclear Medicine (Code 36)
    • Pathology (Code 22)
  • Hospital-Based Eligible Professionals
  • Newly Eligible Professionals who began to submit Medicare claims in 2015. However, they will be required to begin demonstrating meaningful use in 2016 to avoid a payment adjustment in 2018.

If your practice or eligible professionals in your practice do not fall into one of the above categories of automatic exceptions and you are concerned about meaningful use compliance for the 2015 reporting period, it may be necessary and appropriate to file an application for a hardship exception. Examples of significant hardship for which the CMS will grant an exception include, but are not limited to, insufficient internet connectivity, EHR Certification/Vendor Issues and lack of face-to-face patient interaction.

The hardship exception application (accessible here) was recently revised to make completion and submission easier. Once completed, the application should be submitted electronically to [email protected] or faxed to 814.456.7132.

If you have any questions about the meaningful use hardship exception, please contact Edward J. Cyran at 610.458.4963 or [email protected] or any member of Fox Rothschild’s Health Law Practice.