EHR Incentive Payments Under HITECH Act
By James F. Owens and Jenny J. Wang
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act provides incentive payments through the Medicare and Medicaid programs to hospitals and certain individual health care providers that adopt and meaningfully use electronic health records (EHR) technology. The payments are available beginning in 2011, and an eligible professional (e.g., a physician) could receive up to $44,000 under Medicare, or $63,750 under Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued the Standards & Certification Interim Final Rule (IFR) on December 30, 2009, which explains how the incentive payments will be calculated and paid to qualified recipients. Importantly, the IFR clarifies that the incentive payments may be assigned by an eligible professional to an employer or other entity which has a valid arrangement allowing the entity to bill for the services of the professional. Therefore, medical groups, medical practice foundations, community clinics and hospital outpatient departments which bill for their physicians services should be able to receive the EHR incentive payments, and should take appropriate steps to ensure receipt of these incentive payments.