At first read, the CMS/ONC announcement that Stage 2 of EHR meaningful use will be extended by a year appears to give providers more time to get ready for their first reporting period. But that is not the case, according to the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.

CHIME has confirmed with CMS--which later confirmed with Health Data Management--that the extension does not mean a delay in the start date for Stage 2, CHIME CEO Russ Branzell tells Health Data Management. Hospitals still need to start collecting data by July 2014 for their first reporting period in October, and eligible professionals have to start collecting data by October 2014 for the January 2015 reporting period, Branzell explains. Not only are reporting periods unchanged for providers starting Stage 2 in 2014, but also for providers starting Stage 1 in 2014 to avoid reduced Medicare payments in 2015.

That means providers will report on Stage 2 for three years, but not necessarily get incentive payments for three years. There are scenarios depending on when a provider began meaningful use that the provider could receive three payments in Stage 2, but the present number of possible payments throughout the program has not changed, Branzell says. So, if a provider takes off 2014 and doesn’t start meaningful use until 2015, they will lose a year of incentive payments.

The extension of Stage 2 was not done to make the second stage easier to comply with, but to give more time to develop and comply with Stage 3, according to Branzell. He says CHIME will continue to communicate with CMS and members of Congress on the need to shift reporting periods so providers aren’t starting Stage 2 at the same time they are trying to finish ICD-10 work. Branzell believes CMS does not want to delay Stage 2 reporting periods because that would delay seeing benefits from the program. But if providers have to choose between being ready for ICD-10 or meaningful use, they will pick ICD-10 because its impact on revenue is so much greater.

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