Policy update

AOA Town Hall: DOs in Medicare should consider Meaningful Use hardship exception

DOs participating in Medicare must be aware of application deadlines for attestation and new hardship exception for the 2015 performance year.

All physicians participating in Medicare should consider the new and more lenient meaningful use hardship exception, according to recommendations delivered during a public policy town hall meeting held Wednesday night at the AOA’s annual midyear meeting of its Board of Trustees.

“The biggest problem with the meaningful use attestation process is that it’s all or nothing,” said AOA Vice President of Public Policy Laura Wooster. “Even if you believe you can successfully attest to meaningful use for 2015, the AOA encourages all DOs to apply for the hardship exception just in case.”

With deadlines approaching for submitting the newly streamlined and more lenient meaningful use applications, there are two dates that DOs will not want to miss.

March 11: The deadline for submitting proof of attestation of meaningful use for the 2015 performance year.

July 1 (Deadline Extended): The deadline for applying for the hardship exception in order to avoid penalties should attestation not be attainable, which would be assessed in 2017.

The more streamlined application process only requires contact information, the selection of a hardship category and the name or names of the physician(s) covered in the application. If submitting on behalf of a group of physicians, an Excel spreadsheet of their names can be included. No additional supporting documentation is required, and physicians will not be audited to verify the application.

The AOA has developed a step-by-step primer for the hardship exception application.

It’s important to note that the exception only applies to the 2015 performance year, so DOs need to participate in meaningful use for 2016 in order to avoid penalties down the road.

What’s next for meaningful use?

CMS will issue a proposed rule outlining certain requirements of the new Medicare physician payment system, MACRA, which goes into effect in 2019. It is hoped this rule will also detail how meaningful use Stage 3, which begins in 2018, will align with and transition into MACRA.

At this point in time, the AOA knows that physicians will have the option to choose between two payment pathways: an alternative payment model such as an accountable care organization, bundled payments or a patient-centered medical home; or the merit-based incentive payment program, which continues the fee-for-service model but with new requirements for quality reporting, including EHR meaningful use.

As progress continues on how the meaningful use program will evolve, “the AOA will continue to advocate for making the program more in line with how physicians actually practice medicine instead of checking off boxes,” said Wooster.

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