By staff writers

December 24, 2012 -- A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) states that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services paid approximately $2.7 billion to nearly 2,000 hospitals and 46,000 physicians for participating in the federal electronic health record (EHR) incentive program for Medicaid patient providers in 2011.

To qualify to receive incentive payments in 2011, participants in the Medicaid EHR program only need to adopt, implement, or upgrade to an EHR system that had been certified by the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). Participants did not need to have had to demonstrate adherence to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid stage 1 meaningful use requirements.

Specifically, 1,954 hospitals -- representing 39% of the hospitals eligible to participate in the program -- received $1.7 billion. Payments to individual hospitals ranged from $7,500 to $7.2 million.

The GAO reported that 80% of the participating hospitals were acute care facilities, nearly half were located in Southern states, and nearly two-thirds were located in urban areas. Acute care hospitals were 1.7 times more likely and children's hospitals were 1.6 times more likely than critical access hospitals to have received a payment in 2011. Also, the largest hospitals in the country were two times more likely than the smallest hospitals to have participated in 2011.

Payments to 45,962 eligible providers received $967 million in incentive payments, with all but 3% receiving $21,250, the maximum incentive payment. Approximately one-third of physicians eligible participated in 2011. Proportionally more than three times as many eligible professionals participated in the Medicaid EHR program in 2011 than in the Medicare EHR program, according to the GAO report. Specialty practice physicians represented 51% of the total, followed by general practice physicians at 21%. The vast majority (83%) practiced in urban areas.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that from 2011 through 2019, spending for both the Medicaid and Medicare programs will total about $30 billion.

The report may be read here.

Copyright © 2012

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