|GAO Cites Medicare For Redundancy In E-Prescribing And HIT Programs
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is urging the
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reduce duplicate
requirements in its two programs that pay incentives to health
careproviders who use health information technology.
CMS should also reconcile areas in the two programs that
are similar but inconsistent to relieve some of the reporting burden
for participating physicians, it added. Those two programs are
e-prescribing and electronic health records (EHRs).
Incentives For E-Prescribing
In 2009, the first year the e-prescribing program
disbursed incentive payments, CMS paid out $148 million to about 8
percent of the approximate 600,000 eligible Medicare providers. From
2012 through 2014, CMS will decrease the amount of payments to
providers who do not establish e-prescribing, the GAO said.
This year CMS will start paying incentives under the EHR program to qualifying Medicare providers.
Although GAO found similarities in the technology and
reporting requirements for both programs, the government auditor said
that the requirements of the two programs are inconsistent in several
The EHR program provides incentives from 2011 to 2016
and introduces penalties beginning in 2015, while the e-prescribing
program provides incentives from 2009 to 2013 and provides for
penalties from 2012 to 2014, when the program ends. Both programs
require providers to adopt and use technology that can perform similar
The two programs have established separate reporting
requirements related to e-prescribing, potentially requiring physicians
to report to both programs from 2011 through 2014.
"This inconsistency between the programs has the
potential to create uncertainty among physicians" as to what technology
is most appropriate for them to invest in, said Linda Kohn, director of
healthcare issues at GAO.
CMS said it will identify methods for aligning the two
programs in the plan it is already required to develop by Jan. 1, 2012.
That might be too late for physicians to avoid penalties from the
e-prescribing program in 2013 since the requirements for avoiding
penalties in 2013 would likely be proposed in July 2011 and finalized
in November 2011.
Address: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 7500 Security Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21244; (877) 267-2323, www.cms.gov.