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ICANotes and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – How will it benefit you?
The Federal Government is eager to promote the use of EHRs. It believes that their use will improve the quality and decrease the expense of medical care. Toward that end, it made incentive payments to users of EHRs part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (HITECH is the part of ARRA describing the incentives).
To be eligible, physicians must treat Medicare and/or Medicaid patients through "meaningful use" of a "qualified EHR system." Although the incentive program starts in 2011 and extends until 2016, offices must have and use an EHR by 2014 to participate. Further, the most lucrative incentives are available to early adopters and current users of EHR systems as the incentives are greatest for 2011 and 2012.
The incentive payments may be increased by 10% if Physicians predominantly furnish services in an area designated by the Secretary as a health shortage area. Generally, hospital-based Physicians are not eligible for the incentives and bonuses.
Note that there are currently two bills in Congress that propose to extend these incentive payments to other mental health professionals and physician's assistants. Please visit our Pending Legislation page and use the online forms to submit your statement of support to your congressional representatives to help ensure that these important bills are passed.
The eligibility rules are somewhat complicated but if you are receiving over $24,000 year from Medicare you should qualify for the Medicare program. Alternatively you could qualify for the more generous Medicaid incentive program if more than 30% of your patients are Medicaid.
The incentive payment is calculated as 75% of Medicare or 85% of Medicaid payments. So, to receive the full $18,000 Medicare incentive payment in 2011, the clinician would have had to have received at least $24,000 in Medicare charges. (75% of $24,000 is $18,000.)
Besides incentives for eligible users, there are penalties for Medicare providers who do not use EHRs. In 2015 "payment adjustments" will be imposed on eligible providers who are not meaningful users of EHRs.
Providers are given several methods of demonstrating "meaningful use" of the EHR system. These methods may include an attestation, submission of claims with appropriate coding, survey response, and reporting. In addition to meaningful use, providers are required to demonstrate that the EHR technology is connected in such a manner that it provides for the exchange of electronic health information to improve quality of care.