Medicare EHR incentives to ODs top $44 million

November 14, 2012

Optometrists have earned more than $44 million in Medicare Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program payments, according to the latest in a series of reports by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

As of August 2012, some 2,875 optometrists had received a total of $44,500,194 in Medicare EHR incentive bonuses, according to CMS estimates.

“This is an excellent example of optometry thriving in a changing health care system,” said AOA President Ronald Hopping, O.D., MPH. “The AOA was successful in our lobbying to win optometrists the right to participate in the Medicare EHR incentive program and has worked with affiliated state optometric associations to provide optometrists the information they need to implement EHRs in their offices. Optometrists across the country are taking the opportunity to meet government standards for EHR utilization in patient care and qualify for incentive bonuses. In the process, they are readying their practices for new care models that will require EHRs.”

At the current rate of adoption, by year’s end, about one in every 10 practicing optometrists in the United States will have not only implemented EHR systems but will have met the government EHR “meaningful use” standards necessary to qualify for incentive payments, he noted.

Under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2011, health care practitioners can earn up to a total of $44,000 ($48,400 in federally designated health professional shortage areas) over the five-year life of the program if they install EHR systems that are certified for use under the program and achieve compliance with the program’s EHR utilization criteria, known as “meaningful use” standards.

The CMS began issuing Medicare EHR incentive payments in May.

Practitioners who have entered the program during 2011 or 2012 could earn up to $18,000 during their first year of participation.

During those calendar years, incentive payments for first-time participants are based on 75 percent of the participant’s total Medicare-allowed charges for the year, up to a billing threshold of $24,000.

Optometrists participating in the incentive program have to date received an average of $15,478 in payments.

Maximum first-time incentive payments for those entering the program during the period 2013-2015 will be reduced each year.

However, practitioners who enter the program during 2013 could still earn a total of $39,000 in incentives.

Practitioners will not be allowed to enter the incentive program after 2015.

The totals in the CMS report do not include payments made through the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program.

As the result of efforts by the AOA Advocacy Group and state optometric associations, optometrists can now participate in Medicaid incentive programs in at least eight states.

The compete CMS report can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/CMSEHRAugust.

For additional information on the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, see the AOA website EHR page (www.aoa.org/ehr).

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