Approximately 45,000 physicians across the nation will qualify for as much as $63,750 in Medicaid stimulus money over the next six years to install health information technology, according to a new study released today.
The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services study found those 45,000 physicians—who represent 15% of the roughly 300,000 practicing office-based physicians in the country—will qualify for the Medicaid stimulus funding if they demonstrate meaningful use of HIT for a patient mix that includes at least 30% Medicaid beneficiaries.
Office-based pediatricians who do not meet the 30% Medicaid volume threshold but have at least 20% Medicaid patients will receive up to $42,500.
In addition, physicians who practice at federally qualified health centers or rural health centers can qualify if 30% of their patient base is characterized as "needy," including those covered by Medicaid, those who receive uncompensated care and patients who are charged income-related sliding scale fees. The study estimated that nearly all (99%) health center physicians meeting a predominant practice standard will qualify for the Medicaid HIT incentives.
About 16% of physicians now have fully electronic health records; another 15% report partial EHR, the study estimates.
HHS set a goal of 40% HIT adoption by 2012. To push the process, the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 earmarked approximately $49 billion to expedite HIT adoption through Medicare/Medicaid financial incentives targeted at specific providers. Although it's a considerably smaller piece of the incentive pie, Medicaid could pay out more than $2.8 billion for HIT if all qualifying physicians apply for incentives and receive the maximum payout.
HIT incentives through Medicaid are somewhat different than those incentives offered through Medicare, the study notes. First, Medicaid makes financing available on the front end for physicians who otherwise might not have their own money to invest. Also, Medicaid HIT implementation is optional for states, and not a condition of participation in Medicaid. Instead, the federal government hopes to lure states into the HIT movement through increased funding.
Despite the billions of dollars committed to HIT implementation, the study found that considerable challenges remain, including: finalizing a definition of the term "meaningful use"; determining how the additional costs generated by HIT will be financed over the long-term; determining how support will be extended to physicians who fail to qualify for either Medicare/Medicaid incentives; achieving interoperability; and the speed with which states implement the Medicaid incentives.