Having assisted dental groups and DSOs in obtaining federal healthcare IT subsidy payments over these past few years, I can tell you that because of misinformation and misunderstanding regarding the rules behind this program many dental groups and DSOs will miss out on millions of dollars of additional federal and state technology subsidy payments over the next four years. In this article I will clarify which aspects of the subsidy program are closed and how groups and DSOs can still take advantage of that part of the program that allows for continuing payments.
Quick Review of the Federal Healthcare IT Subsidy Program
Approximately seven years ago, as a member of various federal and state healthcare IT committees, I was part of a growing national effort to try to make next generation clinical software and EHR technology affordable. In 2011, we implemented a system of state subsidies based on a willingness of medical and dental groups to integrate best practices software technology. Most of the medical groups took advantage of these subsidies. However, since this was a lesser known program in dentistry, a much smaller number of dental groups and DSOs took advantage of the subsidy payments. If eligible, a group, DSO, or individual dental practice could receive over $63,000 per provider in subsidy payments over a six-year period. One of my DSO clients received a check for over $500,000 last year alone and is due to receive yearly subsidy checks through 2021.
Yearly Technology Subsidies Still Available Through 2021
The number of groups and DSOs that have contacted me and told me that they didn’t even realize they were still eligible for technology subsides has been eye opening. Many of them, either through previous consultants that left them in the dark or by just not having the right information, thought that after they received their year one payments, that was the end of it.
To be clear, a group or DSO which is still eligible can obtain these subsides over the next four years if they show that they are using certified software technology. In the case of another DSO I’m working with, because of the number of providers, they have the potential of getting over $750,000 per year in subsidies through 2021.
The unfortunate part is that many times groups don’t even know that they have eligible providers. For example, I’m working with a group which had hired a number of new dentists over the past couple of years and we found out, after I checked with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), that many of these providers could be counted toward the additional subsides for the group.
Over the next four years, a group or DSO can receive subsidies for both providers who have been working previously, as well as any new providers who recently came on board. It is highly beneficial for a dental group or DSO to check with CMS to see if your providers are eligible.
Has Your Vendor Updated Their Certification?
If your software vendor is presently certified for the technology subsidy program and you have used this certification to obtain subsidies in the past, you need to ask your vendor if they are planning on continuing to support your subsidies by upgrading their software as required by the program. As it stands now, the program is requiring upgraded software by 2019 in order to continue to be eligible for subsidies. The issue is that with the handful of dental vendors that have been certified, unless they plan on expending the resources to upgrade their software to the newest certification, DSOs and dental groups might be out of luck. In the case of larger DSOs and groups this could mean losses of millions over the next few years.
Are You Still Eligible?
The rules in determining whether you are still eligible do change occasionally. Confirming whether your DSO or group is still eligible for technology subsidies is relatively simply. Visit dentalgroupsubsidy.com. This site allows you to enter some basic information and receive your updated eligibility status. The window is closing so don’t miss out on your opportunity to obtain your well-deserved technology subsidy payments.
Mike Uretz is a nationally recognized expert on “next generation” DSO and dental group practice management software and electronic health records (EHRs). He is the executive director of DentalSoftwareAdvisor.com, founder of DentalSoftwareCompare.com and has helped DSOs and dental groups evaluate enterprise software technologies and vendors, negotiate contracts and agreements, and provide implementation management. He has also obtained millions in technology subsidies for his eligible DSO and group clients. Mike can be contacted at email@example.com or 425-434-7102