News in brief

Congress passes EHR meaningful use bill

Legislation provides physicians with blanket hardship exception from Stage 2 EHR meaningful use penalties.


Congress has passed legislation that would require CMS to provide a blanket hardship exception from Stage 2 electronic health records (EHR) meaningful use penalties to all eligible providers who request it. This vote would not have been possible without the advocacy efforts and support of DOs and osteopathic medical students.

The meaningful use program currently requires all eligible professions to meet EHR meaningful use Stage 2 requirements in order to avoid penalties under Medicare in 2017. To do so, they must attest to 90 consecutive days in calendar year 2015. Yet the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) did not publish a final rule with modifications to Stage 2 until October 16 of this year, leaving less than 90 days in the year to attest to the new requirements.

Physicians had the option to apply to CMS for a hardship exception in order to avoid penalties, but CMS would have had to assess each application on a case-by-case basis to determine if it qualified.

Introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Robert Casey (D-PA), the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, S. 2425, contains a provision originally introduced in the House by Representative Tom Price, MD (R-GA) that automatically grants every physician who applies by March 15, 2016, with a hardship exception to avoid penalties from being assessed in 2017. This will reduce physicians’ administrative burdens, and provide certainty by eliminating the need and wait for a decision from CMS. (Note: The deadline for hardship exceptions has since been extended to July 1, 2016).

The legislation now will be sent to the President, who is expected to sign it into law. The AOA will provide additional guidelines on how to apply for the exception in the coming days.


  1. Kurt Brickner D.O.

    Its not interesting. Its tragic and repulsive. The only meaningful use that should ever be considered is the competency of the physician. Those who believe that these CMS measures improve care or are somehow related to quality of care are delusional.

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