Medicare meaningful use bonus checks go out

The Medicare and Medicaid incentive programs have paid out more than $158 million since January.

By — Posted June 15, 2011

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In the first two weeks of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services incentive program, $75 million was paid out in bonuses for the meaningful use of electronic medical records.

CMS announced on May 19 that more than 300 physicians, hospitals and other eligible EMR users qualified for the first stage of the meaningful use incentive program and received payments.

Starting April 18, physicians could begin requesting the bonus pay, also known as the attestation period. They could go online and submit the required information to show CMS they had met the required clinical objectives for a consecutive 90-day period.

"Today's announcements are steps on the right path -- toward the health IT system America needs, which will save lives, save money," CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, MD, said in a statement. "We can bring America's health care system into the 21st century by adopting electronic health records and using electronic prescribing systems."

Physicians and hospitals have until the end of next year to attest and still receive the maximum $44,000 bonus over a consecutive five-year period. Stage 2 of the incentive program is scheduled to begin in 2013 but could be delayed until 2014 as criteria are still being drafted. For the second stage, physicians will have to meet criteria for a period of one consecutive year.

The Medicaid incentive program, which is facilitated by each state's Medicaid office, started in January. Eligible doctors can receive as much as $63,750 over six years.

As of May, $83.3 million had been dispersed by seven states. Not all 50 states have programs up and running yet. Fifteen states have established programs, with more expected to launch later this year.

"Through the EHR incentive programs, we are helping eligible providers invest in their technology infrastructure," according to a statement by National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Farzad Mostashari, MD. "But this isn't just about technology. The goal is better and safer health care, and that means it's about patients -- about their health care and protection of their information."

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