If you won’t be able to successfully attest for Meaningful Use (MU) under the Medicare or Medicaid program for 2015, you may be looking at a payment adjustment in 2017. The only way to potentially avoid the MU penalty is by filing for a hardship exception.
The hardship exception process can be used if you tried to demonstrate meaningful use but had difficulties due to external circumstances. Essentially, you tell the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) about the circumstances through an application form called the “2017 Payment Adjustment Hardship Exception Application,” which can be found on the CMS website. The deadline to submit the application was extended in recently legislation from February 29 to March 15, 2016.
Some of the external circumstances are self-explanatory (i.e., insufficient Internet, natural disaster, practice closure, bankruptcy, and complete lack of face-to-face interaction). One, not multiples of these may be selected as the primary reason that prevented you from demonstrating meaningful use. Two other hardships are also allowed:
- Lack of Control over EHR Availability: Typically this would apply to an EP who is an employee or contractor and provides 50% or more of his/her encounters in a practice where the EP has no control over the presence or use of a certified EHR.
- EHR Certification/Vendor Issues: Circumstances that may fall into this category include:
- Delays experienced by the vendor trying to get certified to the 2014 Edition
- Delays in vendor’s availability of installation and training resources due to a backlog of customers
- Decertification of the currently installed EHR
- Vendor decision to no longer pursue certification.
More than one eligible professional (EP) may be included on the application as long as the same hardship applies to all EPs listed. This application can be submitted electronically or by fax to a third party contractor on CMS’s behalf.
In addition to submitting the application to CMS, you must keep all records that would support the specific hardship being claimed: emails regarding sales, training, installation, available dates, sales invoices, training invoices, press releases regarding availability of EHR, certification, meeting minutes, etc. For 2017, these documents are not required to be submitted with the application but you must make them available upon request.
For more details on the application process or to start your application, visit the CMS website or the CMS Frequently Asked Questions.
If you are looking for help with Meaningful Use, check out the Kareo Meaningful Use Resource Center.