President Obama has signed legislation that changes the definition of "hospital-based physician" in the HITECH Act, paving the way to make many more physicians eligible for incentive payments for the meaningful use of electronic health records.

H.R. 4851's core purpose was to temporarily delay the 21 percent Medicare reimbursement cut to physicians, and to extend unemployment, COBRA and flood insurance benefits through May. The bill also included clarification language that means physicians who primarily practice in hospital-owned ambulatory facilities can qualify for meaningful use incentives. Here's the language:

SEC. 5. EHR CLARIFICATION.

     (a) Qualification for Clinic-based Physicians-

                (1) MEDICARE- Section 1848(o)(1)(C)(ii) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395w-4(o)(1)(C)(ii)) is amended by striking `setting (whether inpatient or outpatient)' and inserting `inpatient or emergency room setting'.

            (2) MEDICAID- Section 1903(t)(3)(D) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1396b(t)(3)(D)) is amended by striking `setting (whether inpatient or outpatient)' and inserting `inpatient or emergency room setting'.

      (b) Effective Date- The amendments made by subsection (a) shall be effective as if included in the enactment of the HITECH Act (included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5)).

      (c) Implementation- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Health and Human Services may implement the amendments made by this section by program instruction or otherwise.

Full text of H.R. 4851 is available at congress.gov.

--Joseph Goedert

 

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