Radiologists avoid 2016 MU penalties

Medicare-eligible hospitals and professionals that failed to demonstrate meaningful use (MU) through the Medicare EHR Incentive Program or Medicaid EHR Incentive Program in 2014 can expect a -2% Medicare payment reduction for 2016, but most radiologists will be granted hardship exceptions.

Physicians who practiced certain specialties six months prior to the first day of payment adjustments automatically receive a hardship exception. Those specialties, organized by Provider Enrollment, Chain, and Ownership System (PECOS) code, include: 05– Anesthesiology, 22–Pathology, 30–Diagnostic Radiology, 36–Nuclear Medicine, and 94–Interventional Radiology. Radiologists were also granted hardship exceptions in 2014, covering the 2015 calendar year.

The automatic hardship exceptions for radiologists are in part a result of the profession’s unique set of circumstances. Radiologists are often subject to the facilities and resources of hospitals they have no control over, for example, and they rarely have much interaction with patients.

July 1 is the date when CMS is expected to begin gathering the PECOS data and granting the hardship exceptions. The ACR says that physicians expecting automatic exceptions should confirm their PECOS code is correct before that time.

Healthcare providers new to the profession in their first year also are granted an automatic hardship exception. This rule is true for both individuals and hospitals.

Physicians who successfully participated in the MU program in 2014 also will avoid the 2016 reduction.