A study by the Government Accountability Office found that 39 percent of eligible U.S. hospitals received payments via the Medicaid meaningful use incentive program.

A total of 1,964 hospitals and 45,962 professionals were awarded a total of approximately $2.7 billion in Medicaid EHR incentive payments in 2011, the GAO says.

The amount of Medicaid EHR incentive payments awarded to each hospital ranged from $7,528 to $7.2 million, with the median payment being $613,512. That median payment was less than half of what hospitals participating in the Medicare EHR incentive program received.

About 50 percent of hospitals accounted for about 80 percent of the total amount of Medicaid incentive payments to hospitals. Among hospitals collecting 2011 Medicaid EHR incentive payments:

* The largest proportion (46 percent) were located in the South and the smallest proportion (15 percent) were located in the Northeast;

* 62 percent were located in urban areas;

* 80 percent were acute care hospitals,

* 57 percent were nonprofit hospitals; and

* 57 percent were not members of a chain.

The GAO also compared hospitals that received incentive checks to eligible hospitals that did not. It found that acute care hospitals were 1.7 times more likely and children's hospitals were 1.6 times more likely to have been awarded a Medicaid EHR incentive payment for 2011, when compared with critical access hospitals.

In addition, hospitals with the highest number of total beds were twice as likely to have been awarded an incentive payment than hospitals with the lowest number of total beds.

As for eligible professionals, 45,962 were awarded Medicaid incentive payments, about 33 percent of the estimated 139,600 professionals eligible for the program.

EPs were awarded a total of $967 million in incentive payments; almost  all professionals (97 percent) were awarded the maximum incentive payment amount generally available to professionals in 2011 ($21,250).

Proportionally more than three times as many eligible professionals participated in the Medicaid EHR program in 2011 than in the Medicare EHR program, though the total payment amounts in the two programs were nearly equivalent.

For EPs who received incentive payment in 2011:

* The largest proportion (37 percent) were located in the South and the smallest proportion (20 percent) were located in the Midwest;

* 83 percent were located in urban areas;

* Nearly three-quarters were physicians—either general practice physicians (23 percent) or specialty practice physicians (51 percent)—and the lowest proportion (1 percent) were physician assistants; and

* 47 percent had signed agreements to receive technical assistance from a Regional Extension Center.

The full GAO report is at www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-146R

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