Today the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) today proposed an update to its e-prescribing rule (e-Rx) and opened a public commenting period that ends July 25.
Long story short: The e-Rx rule not only offers incentives for participants, but “payment adjustments” (read: penalties) for those who don’t participate. Unlike the Medicaid and Medicare electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs that run from 2011 to 2016 with penalties starting in 2015, the e-Rx program ramps up from 2009 to 2013, with penalties beginning in 2012. CMS acknowledges in its update to the rule that commenters found “administratively confusing, cumbersome, and unnecessarily duplicative” with the EHR incentive program.
While physicians cannot collect incentive payments from both the EHR and e-Rx programs — they can only get incentives from one or the other — they can be penalized by both for not adopting the software and using it in CMS’s prescribed manner.
Commenters weren’t the only ones who had issues with CMS’s approach to the two rules: The Government Accountability Office piled on earlier this year, pointing out in a report that the e-Rx program seems pretty burdensome to physicians who simultaneously are attempting to comply with the EHR incentive program’s meaningful use rules. Some practitioners could be put in the position of buying two sets of e-Rx software to accommodate both programs.
CMS is proposing today that docs should get a break on the e-Rx timetables, provided they are in the process of implementing an ONC-certified EHR system. Furthermore, healthcare practitioners who would otherwise reap the benefits of the e-Rx program but for local or state laws prohibiting the e-prescribing of some drugs (such as narcotics) also get a break after passing a CMS review of their individual cases.
Of course, it’s a little more complicated than the above summary, once you take a deep dive into the fine print. Get more details — and read updates as they occur — at CMS’s e-Rx home.