Medicare EHR incentives to optometrists top $56 million

January 28, 2013

medicare incentive graphicSome 3,570 optometrists had earned $56,892,212 in Medicare Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program payments as of November 2012, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Participating optometrists netted an average of $15,936 as of November. This suggests participating optometrists are continuing to earn maximum or near-maximum incentives through the program.

Optometrists, early leaders in Medicare EHR incentive program participation, continue to adopt EHR technology, enter the incentive program, and qualify for payments at rates exceeding most other health care professions, according the AOA Washington office, which monitors the CMS reports.

Almost $5 million in Medicare EHR incentives were distributed to optometrists in November alone, the report shows.

A previous CMS report found 3,296 optometrists had received nearly $52 million in Medicare incentives as of October 2012.

With the November payments, optometrists had earned a total of $17.8 million in Medicare EHR incentives during 2012, the second year of the incentive program.

Final data on Medicare EHR incentive program distributions during 2012, including payments made during December, is expected to be issued shortly.

Optometrists earned more than $39 million through the Medicare EHR incentive program in 2011.

Some 226 optometrists registered for the Medicare EHR program during November. That was more than any other specialized health care profession, the AOA Washington office noted. Only the much larger professions of medicine and osteopathy saw more practitioners register for the Medicare EHR incentive program that month.

AOA President Ronald Hopping, O.D., MPH, credited the continuing success of optometrists in achieving Medicare EHR bonus payments to the “AOA Electronic Health Records Preparedness Program for Optometry,” a multiyear initiative with classroom continuing education programs across the nation, extensive articles in AOA publications, and online resources to help AOA-members implement EHR systems and qualify for incentives.

He also credited effective AOA Advocacy Group efforts to ensure optometrists could participate in the incentive program.

The CMS had originally planned to bar optometrists from EHR incentives, he noted.

Under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2011, health care practitioners who entered the program during 2011 or 2012 can earn up to a total of $44,000 ($48,400 in federally designated Health Professional Shortage Areas [HPSA]) over the six-year life of the program if they install EHR systems certified for use under the program and achieve compliance with the program’s EHR utilization criteria, known as “meaningful use” standards.

Practitioners who enter the program during 2013 can qualify for up to a total of $39,000 ($42,900 in HPSAs) over the program’s four remaining years.

Health care practitioners who entered the incentive program during 2011 or 2012 could earn up to $18,000 for their first year of participation.

The CMS expected to begin issuing checks for second-year participants in March or April.

Data released by the CMS in January does not include payments made to optometrists under the separate Medicaid EHR program. Optometrists can now qualify for Medicaid EHR incentive programs in eight states (Alabama, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Virginia).

For additional information on the Medicare EHR Incentive Program, including the latest CMS report on incentive distributions, visit www.aoa.org/ehr.

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