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April 16, 2010 News Headlines

Physician Eligibility for EHR Incentive Program Expanded; Obama Signs Bill into Law

Last night, the President signed into law a bill containing a HANYS-backed provision to expand physician eligibility for the electronic health record (EHR) systems incentive program to include physicians who provide the majority of their services in hospital outpatient departments or in hospital-affiliated clinics. These physicians would not have been eligible under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) proposed rule on the “meaningful use” of EHR systems.

HANYS and HANYS’ HIT Strategy Group pressed the case for expanded physician eligibility with CMS, key members of Congress, committees of jurisdiction, and, in partnership with the American Hospital Association (AHA), directly with the Obama Administration. The provision was contained in a larger bill to extend lapsed unemployment insurance benefits and increase subsidies for individuals buying health insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). The bill also contained a provision to delay a Medicare physician fee schedule cut until the end of May.

While expanding physician eligibility is a victory, HANYS, under the guidance of HANYS’ HIT Strategy Group, will continue to press for additional changes. HANYS strongly believes the proposed “all-or-nothing” requirements must be modified to allow a degree of flexibility for hospitals and physicians in achieving meaningful use status. Without that flexibility, far too many hospitals and physicians will fail to meet the requirements. Failure to meet the meaningful use requirements by 2015 results in Medicare payment penalties. Further, HANYS believes that all hospitals, regardless of whether they share a Medicare provider number with other institutions, should receive their own EHR incentive base payment amount.

Visit the health information technology page on our Web site for a HANYS-prepared summary and slide presentation of the regulation, among other tools. CMS is expected to publish a final rule on the EHR incentive program in late spring or early summer. Contact: Susan Van Meter

State Awards $18.5 Million for Health Care Workforce Retraining

The Department of Health today announced the awarding of $18.5 million in grants to help train and transition health care workers for positions where there are shortages or where new skills are needed due to changes in the health care system.

Commissioner of Health Richard Daines, M.D., noted that the funding comes at a critical time for employees of St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City, who will benefit from grant-funded efforts to help them relocate. “A portion of the funding will be used to retrain and transition employees of St. Vincent’s hospital to new positions in the health sector as that hospital prepares to close,” Dr. Daines said.

The two-year grants are funded through the State’s Health Care Reform Act and are the sixth round of awards that have been awarded since the Health Care Workforce Retraining Program’s inception in 1996.

A list of grant recipients is available on the DOH Web site. Contact: Cindy Levernois