Physicians now have an extra month to apply for a hardship waiver to avoid being penalized for not adopting e-prescribing in their practices, according to the final rule issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Doctors who use a qualified e-prescribing system are eligible for an additional 1% in Medicare Part B payments in 2011 and 2012, and a 0.5% increase in 2013. As you may have heard, that’s the carrot. The stick come into play for physicians who fail to complete at least 10 paperless prescriptions using a qualified e-prescribing system between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2011. They receive a 1% cut in Medicare reimbursements in 2012, a 1.5% cut in 2013, and a 2% cut in 2014.
In the proposed rule, issued in May, the CMS said doctors who are unable to e-prescribe could apply for a hardship exemption before Oct. 1. In the final rule issued issued last week, the CMS announced those doctors now have until Nov. 1 to apply for an exemption.
The CMS is willing to issue exemptions for the following reasons:
- Physicians who see very few patients
- Physicians who practice in rural areas without sufficient high-speed Internet acces
- Physicians in areas without sufficient available pharmacies
- Physicians who have had limited prescribing activity during the six-month time frame
- Physicians practicing in an area where regulations hinder e-prescribing, such as in places that prohibit paperless orders for narcotics.
Physicians who are registered to participate in another electronic health records program — such as the Medicare or Medicaid EHR Incentive Program — will also be exempt from the 1% cut in reimbursement in 2012.
The complete final rule can be downloaded from here.