The American Medical Association issued a statement Dec. 17 that the physician group is “appalled” by an announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that more than 50 percent of eligible professionals will face penalties under the Meaningful Use program in 2015.

In a written statement, Steven Stack, M.D., president-elect of the AMA, said the number released by CMS—more than 257,000 EPs—is “even worse than we anticipated.” Earlier in the day, the agency briefed reporters that physicians will receive notices over the next few weeks that they will be subject to Medicare payment reductions beginning in 2015 for failing to demonstrate MU in previous years.

“The penalties physicians are facing under the Meaningful Use program are part of a regulatory tsunami facing physicians, apart from the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate formula, that could include cuts from the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), the Value-based Modifier Program and the sequester, further destabilizing physician practices and creating a disincentive to see Medicare patients,” Stack said. “According to the Administration, only half of eligible physicians participated in PQRS in 2013, meaning many will incur penalties from both the Meaningful Use and PQRS programs.”

On Sept. 30, Judy Murphy, the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT’s then-chief nursing officer, told AHIMA’s annual conference that financial penalties by means of lower Medicare reimbursement for failure to become meaningful users of electronic health records are “just kicking in” in 2015, and that over time the penalties could yield savings to the federal government of up to $6 billion. The meaningful use penalties will be measured reductions from a hospital or practice’s Medicare Part B reimbursement rates, starting at a 1 percent cut in 2015, Murphy said.  The penalty rate eventually can reach 5 percent.

According to AMA’s Stack, the MU program “was intended to increase physician use of technology to help improve care and efficiency” but “the strict set of one-size-fits-all requirements is failing physicians and their patients.” Though AMA supported the original HITECH legislation, he argues that in light of the “dismal number of eligible professionals meeting Meaningful Use” the program needs to be fixed.

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