EHR incentive payments climb toward $24 billion

WASHINGTON – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have paid out $23.7 billion in electronic health record incentives under the meaningful use program through last month — up from $22.9 billion in April, according to Elisabeth Myers, policy and outreach lead at the CMS Office of eHealth Standards and Services at the June 10 monthly Health IT Policy committee meeting.

The announcement comes as federal officials have proposed a reboot to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, taking into consideration the downsizing of ONC’s funding following the close-out of incentive payments.

During discussions at the HIT Policy Committee meeting, differences of opinion continue to remain among EHR vendors, providers and policymakers as the difficulty in the meaningful use program has reached a head for Stage 2 and alternatives are under consideration to provide relief.

Regardless, participation in the program continues to grow, according to Jennifer King, acting director, Office of Economic Analysis, Evaluation, and Modeling at ONC. King presented to the HIT Policy Committee a report on eligible providers’ participation in the EHR incentive program from 2011 through 2013.

As of 2013, only three percent of eligible providers in the U.S. have not signed up to participate in the program, King said. Fifty-nine percent have received meaningful use Stage 1 incentives, 15 percent have received AIU (adopt, implement and upgrade) incentives only, while 17 percent have registered for the program and have not yet received incentives, while five percent are enrolled in a regional extension center only, without moving forward yet.

All in all, King said, participation continues to increase.

Younger physicians and non-behavioral health providers were ranked among the more likely to achieve meaningful use Stage 1 after they signed up for the program, King said.

Out of all sizes of physician practices, solo-practitioners faced the most relative risk of failing to achieve meaningful use, the analysis showed.

Physicians in rural locations or in counties with the majority of its citizen living in poverty and physicians serving mainly minority patient populations also showed the greatest risk of failing to achieve meaningful use, King said.

Physicians who participate in either or both regional extension centers and patient-centered medical homes were also more likely to achieve meaningful use, King said.

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