EHR incentive payments exceeded $500 million in May

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) channeled more than $500 million in EHR Incentive Program payments to eligible providers and hospitals during the month of May. In total, CMS has paid out $5.58 billion to 110,650 physicians and hospitals since the inception of the technology initiative, according to agency estimates.

Final figures will be available later this month once CMS completes its May monthly data collection.

In May, CMS paid $346 million to Medicare physicians and hospitals, and $205 million to Medicaid providers for a total of $551 million to 16,400 providers in preliminary estimates, said Robert Anthony, specialist in CMS’ Office of eHealth Standards and Services.

“We are reaching an even keel as to how much we are paying each month in incentive payments,” Anthony said in his program status report at the June 6 meeting of the Health IT Policy Committee, which advises the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

Through April, CMS had paid $5.03 billion to 94,097 Medicare and Medicaid physicians and hospitals. In April alone, 12,205 Medicare providers received $276 million, while 3,977 Medicaid providers received $195.5 million for adoption, implementation and update of EHRs, and 37 Medicaid providers received $3.17 million for demonstrating meaningful use.

April was the first month that Medicaid professionals could be paid as meaningful users, but not all of the states have their systems up and running yet for meaningful use attestations, Anthony said.

Most states have initiated their Medicaid EHR incentive programs, but Hawaii, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada and Virginia are preparing to start within the next few months. Nebraska was the latest state to launch its Medicaid EHR program in May.

Registration among providers for the program is “consistently high,” with 12,374 in April and a total of 238,139 Medicare and Medicaid registrants as of the end of April, according to CMS.

“About 71 percent of hospitals that are eligible to participate in the program have registered, and we are fast closing in on 50 percent of eligible professionals being registered at this point,” Anthony noted.

While provider registrations show they have reached a plateau, there were predictable bumps in January and February so those providers could be included in the count for 2011 meaningful use.

The preliminary estimates for May show “a little downtick” for the number of Medicare providers receiving payments. Many came in at the end of the year.

“We won’t see people coming back for 2012 until 2013 because they will have to do meaningful use for an entire year,” Anthony explained. But May also included payments for eligible physicians in Medicare Advantage organizations.

A snapshot from 2011 meaningful use data is beginning to emerge, Anthony added. “It does appear that those coming in at the end were performing significantly lower in a way from those who came in the beginning. We’re unsure whether that means that once you’re a meaningful user, you’re a meaningful user, or whether these are the folks in 2011 who were most situated to come in and incorporate it in the workflow. We’ll want to look at whether the folks who came in 2012 differ in any significant way,” he said.

As of April, about 45 percent of all eligible hospitals had received an incentive payment, while 1 of every 7 eligible Medicare physicians had become a meaningful user of EHRs, moving steadily higher from the previous month’s 1 in every 9 Medicare physicians, Anthony said.

And nearly 1 of every 5 Medicare and Medicaid eligible providers have received payment whether for meaningful use or to adopt, implement or update EHR systems.

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