States will get federal help for electronic health records programs

Federal government will cover 90 percent of states' administrative costs

 States will be reimbursed for 90 percent of the administrative costs of overseeing electronic health record incentive payments to doctors and hospitals under the economic stimulus law, according to a senior official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Cindy Mann, director of CMS' Center for Medicaid and State Operations, wrote to state Medicaid directors on Sept. 1 to provide initial guidance on the economic stimulus law. The CMS will administer up to $45 billion in incentive payments to health care providers to reward adoption and the so-called "meaningful use" of certified EHRs.

The state Medicaid programs will distribute a portion of the incentive payments, and CMS will reimburse states for 100 percent of the cost of the payments.

States may immediately request 90 percent in federal matching funds for administrative planning activities related to the stimulus law payments, Mann wrote, adding that the agencies should submit a Health IT Planning Advance Planning Document and wait for approval before starting the planning or spending funds.

Planning activities include setting up systems and processes to administer the incentive payments to providers, ensure proper payments, audit and monitor the payments and participate in statewide efforts to promote interoperability and meaningful use of EHRs, she said.

The CMS published Mann’s letter, along with six attachments and a fact sheet, on its Web site Sept. 1.

In addition to distributing the incentive payments, state officials also are being encouraged to prepare for implementation of health information exchanges. The law makes an additional $1.2 billion in grants made available for those exchanges.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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