Advocacy earns better EHR incentives in 10 states

Optometrist can earn incentives when they add electronic health records (EHR) to their practice—and Medicaid’s incentives offer more money than Medicare’s.

The extra incentive dollars can be especially important for those who serve low-income populations and want to offer state-of-the-art health information technology to those patients

Now, thanks to the work of the AOA Advocacy Group and state affiliates, more optometrists in more states will benefit from these higher-paying incentives. Advocacy efforts have opened the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program to optometrists in 10 states: Alabama, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, and Maryland.

The extra incentive dollars can be especially important for optometrists who serve low-income populations. The money can help them offer state-of-the-art health information technology to patients.

How the incentives work

Under the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, practitioners must demonstrate they have billed at least 30 percent of their insurance claims to Medicaid during a 90-day reporting period. Then they qualify for up to $63,750 in incentives over the program’s six-year life—more than 40 percent higher than the Medicare EHR Incentive Program.

The list of states offering the Medicaid incentive keeps growing. Last year, optometrists in only five states could participate. Four years ago, only two states offered Medicaid EHR incentives to optometrists.

However, to participate, optometrists must be formally designated as providers of physician services under the state’s Medicaid plan. Optometrists provide these services in nearly all states under Medicaid, but not all states have taken the formal step of designating optometrists as providers of physician services.

What’s happening next

Maryland is expected to become the latest state to open its Medicaid EHR Incentive Program to optometrists. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene authorized the necessary change in the state Medicaid plan following a meeting with Maryland Optometric Association (MOA) representatives last year, according to MOA Executive Director Jennifer Thornton.

When the federal incentive program was launched in 2009, the AOA Advocacy Group provided all state Medicaid programs with information on the benefits of including optometrists in their state EHR incentive programs. That information is paying off, but there are many more states to go.

If you are part of a state optometric association and are interested in approaching your state Medicaid agency about the EHR incentive program, email Daniel Carey at

June 24, 2013

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