On October 7, 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reopened the submission period for hardship exception applications to allow eligible professionals and hospitals to avoid 2015 meaningful use penalties.  Penalties for failing to demonstrate meaningful use of Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT) were applied beginning October 1, 2014 for hospitals, and will be applied effective January 1, 2015 for Medicare eligible professionals.

The new application submission period is available to professionals and hospitals that (1) have been unable to fully implement 2014 Edition CEHRT due to delays in 2014 Edition CEHRT availability, and (2) were unable to use the 2014 CEHRT Flexibility Rule option to attest by July 1, 2014 in the case of hospitals, or October 1, 2014 in the case of professionals.  Hardship exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

As we reported in a prior post, CMS had imposed a deadline of April 1, 2014 for hardship exception applications from hospitals, and July 1, 2014 for applications from eligible professionals.  However, in an apparent response to concerns that providers needed additional time to submit such requests, CMS determined that it was necessary to reopen the submission period.

Because penalties for hospitals began on October 1, it is unclear whether the reopening of the submission period would allow hospitals to recoup any already-imposed penalties.

Eligible hospitals and professionals will now have until November 30, 2014 to submit hardship exception applications.  CMS expects to address the issue further in an upcoming rulemaking.