EHR incentive payments top $8B in October

POSTED IN: Meaningful Use, Electronic Health Records, Quality and Safety, Policy and Legislation

Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record payments have surpassed $8 billion since its inception, with $8.36 billion paid out to 165,800 eligible physicians and hospitals in total program estimates through the end of October.

Final figures will be available later this month as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services captures more complete data.

During October, CMS estimated that it paid Medicare eligible physicians and hospitals $435 million and Medicaid physicians and hospitals $210 million, for a total of $645 million, according to Robert Anthony, a specialist in CMS’ Office of eHealth Standards and Services. Hospitals accounted for $480 million.

“We are on par to do a pretty large number of payments in October. There are 400 hospitals so far, but that number may go up. We have every indication that it will go up in November too because that October-November period is when most hospitals are coming in and attesting,” he said at the Nov. 7 meeting of the federal advisory Health IT Policy Committee.

In September, the totals were $7.7 billion paid since the program’s start to 158,071 providers.

As of September, 22 percent, or 1 out of every 5 Medicare eligible providers, are meaningful users of EHRs, he said. Additionally, 1 out of every 4 Medicare and Medicaid eligible providers has made a financial commitment to an EHR, he said. And over 60 percent of eligible hospitals have received an EHR incentive payment for meaningful use.

In September, 20,010 Medicare and Medicaid physicians and hospitals registered to participate in the incentive program, with a total of 307,129 providers signed up for the program to date.

The September registration number for Medicare physicians was about double that of the summer months as providers signed up to get their three-month required period of meaningful use performance by the end of the year, while the number of hospitals is anticipated to increase significantly over the next couple of months, Anthony said. 

Even as more physicians and hospitals participate, the attestation data show that the level of performance has not changed, with providers exceeding the required threshold of performance for recording objectives for problem list, medications list or medication-allergy list. Providers generally hold the same popular and least popular menu objectives for meaningful use, he said.

Besides the required measures, the most popular menu objectives to attest to are advance directives, drug formulary and clinical lab test results for hospitals; for physicians, it’s drug formulary, immunization registries and patient list. The least popular measure is the transitions of care summaries for both.

Providers are putting off at a high deferral rate executing transitions of care summaries while it is a menu item, Anthony noted.

“That will generate a fair amount of angst about how to tackle that once it becomes a core measure in stage 2. So with ONC we’re certainly thinking about how we can transition that for providers and make some educational resources available to make it easier to achieve,” he said.

In January or February, CMS will start analyzing the attestation data to compare the results of 2011 and 2012.  “Hopefully, we’ll be able to talk about the first year of meaningful use and the EHR program versus 2012,” Anthony said.

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