HHS Extends Stage 2 Deadline for Early Adopters

Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced changes to the timeline of the meaningful use EHR incentive program that will give providers who adopt EHRs in 2011 an extra year to progress to stage 2 of the program.

Under the original rules of the meaningful use program, providers who adopt health IT in 2011 (and register for the program through February 2012) must progress to stage 2 of the program in 2013. Providers who do not join stage 1 until 2012 have until 2014 to meet the stage 2 standards. Both groups, however, are eligible for the same total incentive payments.

Under the modified deadline, providers that adopt health IT this year will now have until 2014 to graduate to stage 2. The change would give providers currently in the program an extra year to prepare for stage 2. In total, early adopters would have three years in stage 1.

The extension also removes a disincentive to delay joining the program. HHS clarified that providers attesting to meaningful use by February 28, 2012, will be eligible for the 2011 as well as the 2012 incentive payments.

The extension is a reflection in part that under the terms of the original rule providers who joined the program in 2011 would have only a few months to prepare for stage 2. A final rule on stage 2 is not expected until summer 2012, and hospitals would be required to meet the requirements on October 1. That would leave little time for both vendors and providers to prepare.

HHS will propose the extension in the notice of proposed rulemaking on stage 2, which is scheduled to be published in February 2012, according to a fact sheet published by HHS’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

ONC’s fact sheet also includes progress updates on the meaningful use program and related ARRA programs.

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