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Final CMS e-Prescribing Rule Eases Requirements

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, September 2, 2011

More physicians and practices can expect to avoid cuts in Medicare payments now that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has softened e-Prescribing rules.

In its final rule, published in the Federal Register Tuesday, CMS added new "significant hardship" exemptions, agreed to exempt those practices that are already meaningful users of certified EHRs, and extended the deadline to apply for those exceptions by one month to November 1, 2011 for the 2012 payment adjustment.

A 1% cut in fees for those who are not successful e-Prescribers will begin in 2012. Providers also face a potential 1.5% and 2% cut for 2013 and 2014, respectively.

The final rule takes into account provider comments to the proposed rules—specifically complaints that they were confusing, cumbersome, and duplicative.

"After we published the 2011 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule last fall, we heard about additional circumstances that could keep physicians and other health professionals from being successful e-prescribers," Patrick Conway, MD, chief medical officer and director of CMS' office of clinical standards & quality wrote in a blog post on the final e-prescribing rules.

 "For example," he wrote, "some providers weren't sure whether certified electronic health record technology that the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs require is also a 'qualified' electronic prescribing system as required by the Medicare eRx Incentive Program. [Other] providers brought up additional hardship situations that the 2011 MPFS final rule didn't address."

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