ASCRS Receives Further Clarification from CMS on Meaningful Use Modifications Rule
Physicians Unable to Attest Due to the Delay in the Release of the Modifications Final Rule May Apply for a Hardship Exemption
As we reported last night, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the Meaningful Use Modifications and Stage 3 Meaningful Use final rule . The final rule lays out an EHR reporting period of any 90-day reporting period for 2015, but due to the extreme delay in releasing the final rule, ASCRS is concerned physicians and practices who have not yet begun Meaningful Use for 2015 will not be able to attest successfully. Specifically, we were concerned about the lack of a hardship exemption included in the rule.
This morning, ASCRS reached out to CMS for clarification and received the following response to our question, which CMS indicates will become one of their FAQs:
Q: If an Eligible Professional (EP), eligible hospital or Critical Access Hospital (CAH) is unable to effectively plan for a reporting period in 2015 due to the timing of the publication of the 2015 through 2017 Modifications final rule, can they apply for a hardship exception?
A: CMS finalized the modifications to reporting requirements in 2015 in order to align with future Stage 3 requirements and to ease the overall burden associated with reporting on the EHR Incentive Programs. These modifications did not add any new requirements for EPs, eligible hospitals, or CAHs, but instead reduced the number of measures that had already been required for 2015.
In addition, the modifications allowed for a 90-day reporting period in 2015 for all providers—which can be any 90 consecutive days in the 2015 calendar year (or between October 1, 2014 and December 31, 2015 for eligible hospitals and CAHs).
Because of the wide flexibility in reporting periods and the reduced number of previously established requirements, CMS expects that the majority of all providers will be able to meet the modified 2015 reporting requirements for a 90-day reporting period. Providers have until February 29, 2016 to attest to their meaningful use data, which allows sufficient time for any necessary changes to the reports generated for attestation. In most cases, no such changes will be necessary as providers may use the same report and simply only input the data for the retained objectives and measures.
However, if a provider is still unable to meet the requirements of meaningful use for an EHR reporting period in 2015 for reasons related to the timing of the publication of the final rule, a provider may apply for a hardship exception under the “extreme and uncontrollable” circumstances category. Each hardship exception application will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, as required by law.
Today, CMS announced it will hold a webinar tomorrow, Thursday, October 8, from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm ET entitled, “EHR Incentive Programs Final Rule Overview & What You Need to Know for 2015.” The webinar will cover the following topics: an overview of the Modifications and Stage 3 Final Rule; requirements for the EHR Incentive Programs in 2015 through 2017 (Modified Stage 2); Stage 3 requirements for 2018 and beyond; what you need to know to participate in 2015; and new CMS resources.
Register here. 
Stage 3 and Final Rule Comment Period
In addition to the unattainable thresholds set forth in the Stage 3 portions of the rule, ASCRS, the medical community, and Congress have argued for a pause in Stage 3 due to the requirement to integrate Meaningful Use into the new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) beginning in 2017. In the final rule, and in subsequent communications, CMS has noted it expects additional revisions to Stage 3 and will incorporate comments it receives on this final rule into the proposed rule on MIPS it expects to release in the Spring of 2016. This final rule sets out a 60-day comment period. ASCRS will be submitting comments.
In the meantime, ASCRS will continue to advocate for a delay of Stage 3.
Additional information on the final rule released last night is available in ASCRS’ regulatory alert  and will be provided in Washington Watch Weekly. We will also be updating our regulatory guides on this program shortly.
If you have questions or need assistance, please contact Ashley McGlone, manager of regulatory affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org  or 703-591-2220.