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CMS Recognizes Additional Hardship Categories for Electronic Prescribing Waivers

electronic prescribing waiversOn June 1, 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ("CMS") issued a proposed rule that would allow certain physicians to avoid having to use electronic prescribing ("eRx") by the required June 30, 2011 date. 

Currently, CMS requires that providers complete at least 10 drug orders using an eRx system between January 1 and June 30, 2011 in order to avoid a one percent decrease in Medicare payments in 2012.  Prior to the June 1, 2011 proposed rule, only rural providers with limited internet access or providers in an area with limited pharmacies for eRx could claim a hardship waiver to avoid the penalties for failing to make the 10 eRx orders.

Under the June 1, 2011 proposed rule:

  • The deadline to claim exemptions would be extended to October 1.
  • The reasons for exemption would be expanded to include when the provider:
    • has already registered to participate in the Medicare or Medicaid Electronic Health Record ("EHR") incentive program, and adopted and used certified EHR technology by the 2011 deadline;
    • cannot utilize eRx due to local, state, or federals laws or regulations;
    • has limited prescribing activity; or
    • has insufficient opportunities to report eRx because of the types of patients he or she claims are not eligible under the program.

CMS believes that approximately 209,000 providers would be able to claim exemptions under the expanded rule.  While many more providers would be eligible for exemptions from the eRx requirements, there may be other exemptions that CMS should consider. Public comments on this proposed rule and any additional comments on other exceptions that CMS should consider are being accepted by CMS until July 25.

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