Obtaining Meaningful Use Stimulus Payments

Many clinicians and hospitals have asked me about the exact steps to obtain stimulus payments.

On January 3, 2011, CMS began registering clinicians for participation in meaningful use programs.    Every region of the United States has Regional Extension Centers which can help answer any questions. Here’s an overview of the steps you need to take.

1.  Choose between Medicare and Medicaid programs.  If you qualify, Medicaid offers greater incentives and does not require you to achieve meaningful use before stimulus payments begin.
a.  To qualify for Medicaid, 30% of your patient encounters must be Medicaid patients. (20% for pediatricians)
b.  To qualify for Medicare, keep in mind that meaningful use payments are made at 75% of Medicare allowable charges for covered professional services in the calendar year of payment, per the payment maximums below:

Year 1  $18,000
Year 2  $12,000
Year 3  $8000
Year 4  $4000
Year 5  $2000

Thus, a total of $44,000 is available at maximum, but could be less if your allowable Medicare charges are less than

Year 1 $24,000
Year 2 $16,000
Year 3 $10,667
Year 4 $5333
Year 5 $2667

Also, if 90% of your Medicare charges take place in inpatient or emergency department locations, you cannot qualify for the meaningful use program.  This means that emergency physicians, anesthesiologists, radiologists, and pathologists generally cannot participate.  Some professionals may also find that they do not have enough Medicaid or Medicare charges to benefit from either program.

2.  Once you’ve chosen Medicare or Medicaid, you must register to participate
a.  You need a National Provider Identifier and password.   If you do not have one, go to the NPPES website.
b.  One you have a password, go to the CMS EHR Incentives Website and register as an eligible professional
c.  Two valuable resources include the Registration User’s Guide and the CMS overview of the EHR incentive programs.

3.  The Meaningful Use demonstration period is 90 days beginning January 1, 2011 so the first date that you can attest to meaningful use of Certified EHR technology is April 1, 2011.   Note that the EHR technology you use must be certified by the time you attest.  You can begin your meaningful use reporting period using uncertified EHR technology as long as it is certified by the end of your reporting period.

Medicare payments will begin in May.  Medicaid payments are administered by states and will begin when state governments are ready to administer the program.  Some states are ready now and others will not be ready until August.  Remember that Medicaid payments start before meaningful use is achieved so there is no need to wait for meaningful use measurement and attestation for the Medicaid program.

Hospital requirements are similar
a.  First, you must locate the following, which your Revenue Cycle staff are likely to have:
CMS Identity and Access Management (I&A) User ID and Password.
CMS Certification Number (CCN).
National Provider Identifier (NPI).
Hospital Tax Identification Number.
b.  Go to the CMS EHR Incentives Website and register as an eligible  hospital
c.  The Hospital Registration User’s Guide is a valuable resource

Here’s a summary of the key dates for the program:

January 1, 2011 – Reporting year begins for eligible professionals.
January 3, 2011 – Registration for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program begins.
January 3, 2011 – For Medicaid providers, states may launch their programs if they so choose.
April 2011 – Attestation for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program begins.
May 2011 – EHR Incentive Payments expected to begin.
July 3, 2011 – Last day for eligible hospitals to begin their 90-day reporting period to demonstrate meaningful use for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program.
September 30, 2011 – Last day of the federal fiscal year. Reporting year ends for eligible hospitals and CAHs.
October 1, 2011 – Last day for eligible professionals to begin their 90-day reporting period for calendar year 2011 for the Medicare EHR Incentive Program.
November 30, 2011 – Last day for eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals to register and attest to receive an Incentive Payment for Federal fiscal year (FY) 2011.
December 31, 2011 – Reporting year ends for eligible professionals.
February 29, 2012 – Last day for eligible professionals to register and attest to receive an Incentive Payment for calendar year (CY) 2011.

I hope this clarifies your next steps.   May your stimulus funds flow quickly in 2011!

John Halamka, MD, is the CIO at Beth Israel Deconess Medical Center and the author of the popular Life as a Healthcare CIO blog, where he writes about technology, the business of healthcare and the issues he faces as the leader of the IT department of a major hospital system. He is a frequent contributor to THCB.

4 replies »

  1. So if you have a group of about 100 physicians and you need to obtain your numerator/denominator info from your EMR and manually enter it on CMS website, what is the best strategy for getting everyone attested?

  2. Some speculative E-Z numbers:
    Assume you see 100 patients a week in outpatient primary care, 50 weeks a year. Assume further that meeting MU adds an average 2 minutes per chart documentation and reporting time (a mere 8 seconds or so for each criterion, notwithstanding that some are 1-time yes/no attestation — and, don’t forget, the Stages 2 and 3 MU capture and reporting requirements are going to be more extensive). Assume yet further a blended G&A multiplied FTE clinic labor cost of, say, $40/hr.
    Stick this in Google and hit “return”: ((5000*2)/60)*(40)*(5)=
    ~ $33,333 additional labor over the five years (e.g., just for the Medicare side). Oh, yeah, also, the $44,000 is taxable income.
    So, net out (and don’t forget to include your marginal differential certified EHR costs).
    Looks to me like the only way this works as a financial incentive is with a net wash or (ideally) decrement in workflow FTE burden.

  3. Meaningful use of devices that are meaningfully unproven?? I do not get it. All of the reports cast doubt on this meaningful ruse.