Legislation introduced in the U.S. House would exempt certain physicians from Medicare payment penalties starting in 2015 for failing to achieve meaningful use of electronic health records.

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) is sponsor of H.R. 1331, and a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. That could make it easier for Black to tack provisions of the bill on other legislation going through Congress.

The bill as introduced would provide a three-year exemption to Medicare payment penalties for eligible professionals in a solo practice, or at or near retirement age. The legislation also would shorten the two-year gap between a performance period and application of a financial penalty to no more than one year. Presently, eligible physicians not becoming meaningful users during 2013 would receive a cut in Medicare reimbursements during 2015. The legislation also would prohibit applying a Medicare payment penalty on eligible professionals who are Medicaid meaningful users.

Other provisions in the bill include deeming providers in rural health clinics as eligible professionals and being eligible for the meaningful use program, using specialty registries to aid specialists in meeting quality measures, and establishing a formal appeals process before application of financial penalties. Text of the legislation is available at http://thomas.loc.gov.

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