March 2, 2009
In order to encourage physicians to implement e-prescribing software, Medicare is giving away money--that's the carrot. In a couple years, doctors that haven't implemented e-prescribing will have Medicare funding taken away--that's the stick.
Here are the basics:
Start January 1, 2009, prescribers (we veer away from using the word "physicians" because this can apply to physicians assistants and nurse-practitioners; anybody, in other words, who can write a prescription) who use a qualified e-prescribing system will get an incentive payment of 2% of their yearly Medicare allowed charges. The 2% will run for 2009 and 2010. In 2011 the incentive will drop to 1%. In 2012 and 2013 the incentive will drop to 0.5%. Hello carrots. It's estimated that for most physicians this would be an additional $2000-$3000 a year, more than enough to pay for an e-presciption program.
Now, the stick:
In 2012, if you haven't got an e-presciption program in place, your allowed Medicare charges will be reduced by 1%. This will also apply to 2013. In 2014 it will decrease by 2%. As of right now, there's no plan to make that stop, so in theory you could just go on losing money forever.
That said, any physician who is cranky about being forced to pay for an e-prescription program can actually download a certified e-prescribing program for free--yes, FREE!--from the National Electronic Prescribing Patient Safety Initiative (NEPSI). The URL is http://www.nationalerx.com/.