2011 MU incentives paid: $2.5B

By Mary Mosquera
05:13 PM

The Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record program has paid more than $2.5 billion to physicians and hospitals in incentive payments for all of 2011, with December contributing to the steep growth curve.

The final 2011 data won’t be in until early March because physicians can register and attest in the Medicare program until the end of February to receive payment for what is considered calendar 2011, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. States also can take weeks to submit their final Medicaid incentive data.

Medicare incentives for demonstrating meaningful use of EHRs reached $1.38 billion for the year, while Medicaid payments for providers to adopt, implement and upgrade their EHRs were estimated at $1.15 billion, for a total of $2.53 billion. In November, payments amounted to $1.8 billion

In 2011, 176,000 providers have registered in total for the Medicare and Medicaid incentive programs, said Robert Tagalicod, director of CMS’ Office of eHealth Standards and Services, which advises the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

“December was a strong month for performance, not only in terms of providers who  registered, but were paid and came to our website to attest. We’re seeing an upward trend, and that’s good news,” he told the Jan. 10 meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee.

In 2012, more Medicare providers beyond the earliest adopters are expected to sign up for the incentive program, and more states will launch and start making payments under the Medicaid program.

In 2011, 41 states launched their incentive programs but only 33 were far enough along to distribute payments since they have started at different times, said Jessica Kahn, technical director for health IT at CMS. In January so far, Colorado and Kansas kicked that total up to 43 states launched. 

Medicaid will also start issuing payments for meaningful use demonstration in addition to updating their systems. In 2011, Medicaid only paid hospitals that were eligible under both programs for meaningful use incentives.

The current data still reflects early adopters, “a critical mass enough of a number but not a representative sample,” said Robert Anthony, a specialist in CMS’ Office of eHealth Standards and Services.

“What we know now is what we’ve been saying, but with more confidence. With early adopters, people exceed the benchmarks. Thresholds are greatly exceeded. And there is not much difference between physicians, hospitals or specialties,” he said.

CMS has set up a website for its EHR program monthly reports and data. Also, Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the national health IT coordinator, announced at the meeting the creation of a public use file of de-identified data extracted from meaningful use attestations, including the date and state of attestation and the health IT vendors or modules used in achieving meaningful use.

In December, the Medicare program paid $464.7 million to 4,997 physicians and 193 hospitals, while the states issued $229.4 million to 2,794 eligible physicians and professionals and 230 hospitals under the Medicaid program, Anthony said.

CMS anticipates a large number of providers attesting to meaningful use in January to meet the 2011 deadline. “We have 124,000 eligible professionals registered for the Medicare program, a little over 30 percent of all potential EPs,” he said.

On the Medicaid side, more than 49,000 physicians and eligible professionals have registered, but they had to wait for their states to launch their programs, some of them as late as the fall, Kahn said. She expects a large number of providers from New York and California to register this month as those states have gotten their programs well underway.

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