CMS reiterated its position that multi-campus providers operating under one provider number will be treated as a single entity during a recent webinar conducted by the agency on the federal incentive program for meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR). This position caused many providers to raise objections and request changes to the EHR meaningful use regulations, which originated with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) in 2009. For more information, please see the July 22, 2010, and January 21, 2010, issues of the Health Law Update.

The multi-campus providers voiced concerns that they will be disadvantaged by receiving a disproportionately lower level of EHR financial incentives when compared to single campus providers. During the August 11 webinar, the CMS official stated that the definition of "hospital" under the final EHR meaningful use regulations published July 28, 2010, was left unchanged so as to remain consistent with how single providers are regulated under the hospital conditions of participation, disproportionate share and graduate medical education provisions of the Medicare program. To do otherwise, according to the CMS official, would expose CMS to legal challenges for having inconsistent policies.

Meanwhile, legislative efforts are afoot in Congress to change the definition of "hospital" under the federal EHR meaningful use incentive programs. The bills, sponsored by the Democrats, H.R. 6072 in the House and S. 3708 in the Senate, would amend the HITECH Act to expressly allow multi-campus hospitals under a single provider number to be treated as separate entities, enabling them to receive higher aggregate EHR incentive payments.