A blanket hardship exception from 2015's meaningful use reimbursement penalties passed both the House and Senate last week as part of the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act, offering providers wider latitude for securing exemptions from possible fines.
Previously, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services "could only grant such exemptions on a case-by-case basis, and that exemption process was inadequate and tedious," wrote Republican Texas Rep. Pete Sessions in a letter obtained by Politico.
To protect themselves from penalties that would be assessed in 2017, eligible professionals must apply for exemptions by March 15, 2016, hospitals by April 1.
Republican North Carolina Rep. Renee Ellmers, a longtime champion of meaningful use relief -- the bill drew upon aspects of her Flex-IT 2 Act, which aims to help hospitals and practices struggling with Stage 2 -- applauded its passage.
"Moving forward, this process will now allow doctors to avoid erroneous penalties that would have otherwise caused harm for patients seeking quality care," said Ellmers in a press statement. "I will continue to keep an eye out for CMS implementation and oversight of this policy to ensure that the administration is sticking to congressional intent in order to provide relief for the medical community."