Health Information Management

Draft senate bill expands EHR incentives to hospital-based outpatient physicians

HIM-HIPAA Insider, February 16, 2010

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Many hospital-based physicians puzzled by their apparent exclusion from EHR meaningful use incentives may find some relief in a provision included the Senate job bill, ‘‘Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act.’’ A draft version of the bill became available on February 10.

Section 620 in the draft bill amends The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) language as well as CMS’ interpretation of ARRA as seen in the proposed EHR meaningful use incentive program. The current law states that hospital-based physicians are excluded from receiving EHR subsidies. However, the Senate bill would change this language so that only hospital-based physicians who provide services in a hospital inpatient or emergency room setting are excluded from receiving EHR subsidies.

In other words, the Senate bill as written would make hospital-based physicians who provide their services primarily at hospital outpatient centers and clinics eligible for EHR incentives.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) strongly supports the provision because it helps to ensure CMS “does not inappropriately exclude physicians serving patients in outpatient centers from receiving Medicare and Medicaid HIT incentive payments,” Don May, AHA vice president of policy, says on the AHA Web site.

But, speaking on the HCPro, Inc audio conference, “EHR Meaningful Use: Ensure Eligibility for Financial Incentives,” when the news hit the wires, Margret Amatayakul, MBA, RHIA, CHPS, CPHIT, CPEHR, CPHIE, FHIMSS, of Margret\A Consulting, LLC asks “Will the bill pass? The bill includes other much needed changes as well as potentially controversial elements of health reform. Will these other elements choke the bill?”

That remains to be seen, but at least it shows that Congress is aware of situation and suggests CMS is interpreting it too stringently. Even if the bill doesn’t pass, it might at least enable CMS to interpret ARRA more liberally, Amatayakul says.

She also suggests that healthcare providers might want to write to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and share their thoughts on the proposed changes in the bill.

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