President Obama signed the “Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act” into law on Monday, December 28, 2015. Congress passed the bill the prior week as one of their final legislative acts before adjourning for the year.
This new legislation aims to alleviate stress placed on Eligible Providers (EPs) after the Modified Stage 2 Rule — which requires 90 consecutive days of EHR data reporting for 2015 — was released in mid-October. With the late release of the modifications, there wasn’t a full 90-day reporting period remaining in the 2015 calendar year and some healthcare providers didn’t have enough time to comply with the updates.
The statute makes it easier for Eligible Providers (EPs) to obtain hardship exemptions to the Modified Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements for 2015. Under prior legislation, EPs could apply to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a hardship exemption on a “case-by-case” basis. This new legislation enables CMS to grant hardships to affected healthcare providers for 2015 impacting 2017 payment adjustments.
This new law extends the opportunity for EPs who’re unable to meet Meaningful Use for 2015 to apply for an exemption. To protect themselves from Medicare Part B Penalties that would be applied in 2017, EPs should apply for exemption by March 15, 2016. CMS will continue to accept hardship applications after the mid-March deadline, but such applications will revert back to the original case-by-case review process. More information regarding what the exemption process will entail is forthcoming from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.