Eligible professionals will pay about $200 million this year in the form of Medicare payment reductions for their failure to become meaningful users of electronic health records, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Speaking at Tuesday’s joint meeting of the Health IT Policy and Standards Committees, Elisabeth Myers from the CMS Center for Clinical Standards and Quality told members that about 256,000 EPs are currently subject to 2015 payment adjustments for failing to demonstrate MU in previous years.

According to Myers, 34 percent of EPs (87,000) can expect to have a payment adjustment of $1-$250, 21 percent (55,000) are estimated to have a payment adjustment of $250-$1,000, 14 percent (36,000) are projected to have a payment adjustment of $1,000-$2,000, and 31 percent (78,000) are forecasted to have a payment adjustment of more than $2,000.

“I do want to make it very, very clear that these are estimates, which is why they are very pretty round numbers,” said Myers. “The reason that these are estimates is that the payment adjustment is not a flat amount. It is a percentage of the claims that are submitted for Medicare services during 2015. Obviously, there have not been very many days in 2015 yet so the claims have not been submitted. What we did was took a look at historical claims volume for each of the providers and tried to segment it to try and give a better perspective."

However, she hastened to add that CMS will not know until the end of 2015 “what the total claims volume is for any given provider, and so for the total that variance gets compounded."

In response, the American Medical Association argues that penalties are only counterproductive. “The penalties physicians are facing as a result of the meaningful use program undermine the program’s goals and take valuable resources away from physician practices that could be spent investing in better and additional technologies and moving to alternative models of care that could improve quality and lower costs,” according to an AMA statement. 

When it comes to 2014 attestations, Myers also reported that 127,815 EPs have successfully attested through Feb. 1, 2015, of which 91,033 attested to Stage 1 and 36,782 attested to Stage 2.

But, AMA says it is “alarmed by yesterday’s announcement that more than three quarters of eligible professionals have still been unable to attest to meaningful use.” AMA blames the MU program’s “one-size-fits-all approach” for making it difficult for physicians to take part—now and in the future.

“In order to successfully attest, physicians must spend tens of thousands of dollars for tech support, software upgrades, interfaces and data exchange, often on a recurring basis,” asserts AMA, which adds that it is looking forward to “seeing how CMS’ anticipated new rules address these issues this spring.”

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