Here is latest monthly blog from the HIMSS Privacy and Security Committee…entitled PSST! Keep reading to learn more about this month’s topic – Meaningful Use Incentives as an Entitlement, by HIMSS Board Liaison to the HIMSS P&S Committee Scott Holbrook, MS, FHIMSS. Enjoy his post and share your thoughts on this topic. Lisa Gallagher
by Scott Holbrook, MS, FHIMSS, HIMSS Board Vice Chair and Board Liaison, HIMSS Privacy & Security Committee
The HIMSS 11th Annual Policy Summit, a health IT public policy forum, held in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 12-13, was a great event where we visited our senators and representatives. It is fascinating to spend time in their offices, and I recommend each HIMSS member find the opportunity to make these visits.
We had many outstanding speakers at the Forum, but what held my attention more than anything else was a talk given by Farzad Mostashari MD, ScM, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, within the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, HHS. He clearly identified the progress of the push for clinical informatics.
Specifically, what caught my attention was his reference stating EHR meaningful use funding for eligible hospitals and eligible professionals is an “entitlement.”
What is a government entitlement?
To each of us “everyday citizens,” an entitlement is like Social Security and Medicare. These examples are promises of service and receipt of benefits, from our federal government, when we get to a certain age or meet certain requirements…as long as the government does not run out of money.
EHR incentives were part of the economic stimulus legislation, not part of healthcare reform. In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act HITECH legislation, Congress established an entitlement: if eligible providers/hospitals purchased and meaningfully used EHRs, they would be compensated.
Many folks thought there was a $20 billion pot of dollars for this program, but in actuality, until 2016 for Medicare and 2021 for Medicaid, unlimited funding exists for those who meet the program’s required criteria.
Just like with Medicare and Social Security, as long as the U.S. Government can pay its bills, it will pay for this entitlement. The only way this program can be terminated is if Congress passes legislation rescinding this entitlement, and then, if Congress passed this legislation, then the President signs it into law.
The EHR meaningful use entitlement means that eligible hospitals and professionals meeting the criteria are entitled to the incentive. Mostashari said, “No matter who is President of the United States, it is near impossible to stop.”
This means hospitals and clinicians who get to meaningful use in the prescribed time will be rewarded. For those who do not, they will be penalized!!
I think of it as etched in stone. As of August 31, 2012, CMS reports that $6.6 billion has been paid to eligible hospitals and professionals who met Stage 1 criteria; this includes nearly 200,000 eligible professionals and nearly 4,000 eligible hospitals. The entitlements end in 2016 for Medicare and in 2021 for Medicaid.
Certainly, it is the right thing for our country to have an “EHR for each individual.” We have seen great progress in the number of organizations that have engaged in the EHR journey. Congress created this program as an entitlement, and the journey will continue through the program’s Congressionally prescribed timeline. Even some organizations will reach meaningful use later, if penalties are truly evoked.
The push toward an EHR will improve healthcare outcomes and help reduce cost—the ONC and their actions/agenda are bipartisan that President George W. Bush started and President Barack Obama pushed.
How do you feel about the meaningful use incentives being an “entitlement”? Has your organization take advantage of the incentives?
Scott Holbrook, MS, FHIMSS, is Executive Vice President, Medicity. He is HIMSS Board Vice Chair and Board liaison to the HIMSS Privacy & Security Committee.