The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released its final rule to amend the Medicare electronic prescribing incentive program. Established in 2008, the Medicare e-prescribing incentive program allows eligible providers to earn incentives related to their e-prescribing actions, and also includes penalties beginning in 2012 if they do not meet e-prescribing thresholds.

The final rule differs from the proposed rule in that it attempts to better acknowledge cases in which health care professionals cannot meet the program’s requirements and when such requirements pose significant provider hardships. Specifically, CMS included four new hardship exemptions in the final rule, including eligible professionals who: are unable to e-prescribe due to local, state or federal laws/regulations; have limited prescribing ability; do not prescribe often; and who register to participate in electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs and adopt certified EHR technology.

Additionally, the final rule also extends the deadline to request an exemption from the program’s requirements. Providers now have until November 1 to request an exemption due to significant hardship.

The final rule appeared in the Federal Register on September 6 and will be effective 30 days after that publication.