ARRA Information and Links

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ARRA Basics

It's difficult to have a conversation about the healthcare industry these days without the terms "ARRA" and "Meaningful Use" coming up. But what exactly do they mean, and how will they affect you as a provider? Below, we've addressed some of the most common questions about ARRA incentive payments, meaningful use, and certified EHR technology.

What does ARRA stand for?

ARRA stands for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, an economic stimulus package enacted by the U.S. Congress and signed into law in February of 2009. ARRA is also sometimes referred to as "the Stimulus bill."

How does ARRA apply to the healthcare industry?

ARRA includes provisions for education, energy research, and several areas of social welfare, among other things, but almost 20% of the proposed funds have been allocated to healthcare. Those funds will go toward improvements in a variety of areas within the healthcare industry, including Medicaid, unemployment coverage, health research, and health information technology (HIT).

How does ARRA apply to you as a provider?

One of the aims of ARRA (more specifically, of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health [HITECH] Act, which is a part of ARRA) is to encourage the adoption of certified Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems. To do so, ARRA promises government incentive payments to Medicare and/or Medicaid providers who adopt and make "meaningful use" of certified EHRs.

What is Meaningful Use (MU)?

"Meaningful use" basically refers to how extensively a certified EHR is used by a particular provider. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is responsible for defining the term Meaningful Use, and they are doing so in 3 stages. Stage 1, which took effect in 2011, contains 24 MU objectives/measures (it used to contain 25, but the requirements have recently been revised): 14 are considered "core objectives" and are required. Of the remaining 10 "menu set objectives," each Eligible Provider (EP) must meet 5 in order to avoid payment adjustments (for a total of 19 MU objectives overall). Stage 2 took effect at the start of 2014 and builds on Stage 1. In Stage 2, there are 17 required core objectives and 6 menu set objectives, from which each provider must choose 3 in order to come up with a total of 20 overall. Stage 3 will take effect in 2016, at the earliest. To meet Meaningful Use, a provider must meet every individual objective in whichever Stage he or she is currently in; if you fail even a single measure, then you do not meet Meaningful Use.