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3/28/2012
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Some States Slow To Pay Medicaid EHR Incentives

Some are making strong efforts to spread health IT, but a dozen are not yet paying providers for EHR adoption.

12 EHR Vendors That Stand Out
12 EHR Vendors That Stand Out
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According to two top federal officials, the states are critical to helping the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) achieve its goal of having 100,000 healthcare providers receive payments this year for Meaningful Use of electronic health records. But, although some states are making exemplary efforts to spread health IT to physicians and hospitals, a dozen states are not yet paying federally funded Medicaid incentives to providers, and some haven't even launched their incentive programs.

In a new post on the blog of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CMS acting administrator Marilyn Tavenner and Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator of health IT, made a strong pitch for state support to help the national program succeed. Through February, the officials said, more than 59,000 eligible professionals and 2,000 hospitals had been paid through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR initiatives.

The Medicaid program alone, Tavenner and Mostashari said, made more than $1.8 billion in EHR incentive payments between January 2011 and the end of February 2012. Medicare Meaningful Use payments totaled just over $2 billion through February.

[ Practice management software keeps the medical office running smoothly. For a closer look at KLAS' top-ranked systems, see 10 Top Medical Practice Management Software Systems. ]

The blog post focused on state efforts to promote EHR adoption and use. "Working together with state Medicaid programs and CMS Regional Offices, many states are partnering with local stakeholder organizations to make sure providers get the help and encouragement to achieve 'Meaningful Use,' and assistance with overcoming any barriers that are blocking their progress," the authors wrote.

Four states, the officials said, have set ambitious goals in this respect:

-- Ohio has set a target of having 10,000 eligible providers (EPs) and hospitals--40% of the EPs in the state--receive EHR incentive payments this year.
-- Washington's goal is to have 7,000 EPs and hospitals receive payments.
-- California wants 10,000 providers to receive Medicaid incentive payments by June. Because the federal government is paying the freight, that would mean a cash infusion of $500 million into the state.
-- New York has set a goal of having 6,000 providers receive incentive payments this year.

But not all of the states are onboard with health IT. Through February, 43 states had launched their Medicaid incentive programs and were registering applicants, according to CMS. The seven states that had not yet done so were Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia.

Just 38 states were paying eligible practitioners and hospitals under the "adopt/implement/upgrade" provision of the Meaningful Use regulations. That provision allows Medicaid providers to obtain first-year payments for adoption of EHR technology without attesting to MU. The states that were not yet ready to make these payments in February--besides those listed above--included Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Despite the slowness of these 12 states to make incentive payments to providers, the states are making progress. Last October, more than half of the states had not awarded any funds through their Medicaid programs. By the end of 2011, 41 states had launched their EHR initiatives.

In December, a CMS official told InformationWeek Healthcare that most of the remaining states were aiming for a first-quarter 2012 launch. "We expect all states to be … making payments by June 2012," said Jessica Kahn, technical director for health IT in CMS' Center for Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program Services.

The 2012 InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities Survey finds that grabbing federal incentive dollars and meeting pay-for-performance mandates are the top issues facing IT execs. Find out more in the new, all-digital Time To Deliver issue of InformationWeek Healthcare. (Free registration required.)

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