The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will reduce Medicare payments for fewer physicians in 2017 than in years past, but the adjustment for those not meeting meaningful use will be bigger: potentially 3 percent, rather than the 2 percent penalty imposed in 2016.
While the number of providers facing lower reimbursement fell – 257,000 docs were penalized in 2015 and 209,000 in 2016 – the size of the downward adjustment is larger than in years past.
Also, the penalties come even as the government has made concerted efforts over the past year to enable more practices to apply for meaningful use hardship exemptions.
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CMS makes allowances for providers unable to prove meaningful use due to infrastructure challenges (they're able to demonstrate that they're in an area without sufficient internet access, for instance) or "extreme and uncontrollable circumstances" (ranging from natural disasters to ongoing challenges related to 2014 edition certified EHRs).
In addition, for eligible professionals practicing in multiple locations, lack of control over the availability of certified technology at certain of their practices. Specialists such as anesthesiologists, pathologists and radiologists are also eligible for exemptions.
Medicare payment adjustments began on Jan. 1, 2015 for eligible professionals and will sunset in 2018 as the provisions of MACRA replace meaningful use for physicians.