Frist, Rodham Clinton Introduce Health Care Information Technology Legislation
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on Thursday announced a bill that would help establish a national health information technology network to improve access to medical information, the AP/Raleigh News & Observer reports (Barrett, AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 6/16).
The bill would authorize $125 million in grants annually over five years to create local or regional health information organizations to develop health care IT standards. The standards would be mandatory for federal government programs and voluntary for the private sector (CQ HealthBeat, 6/16).
Physicians who participate in the project would be eligible for increased reimbursement rates under the legislation, according to AP/News & Observer (AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 6/16). The bill also would create an exemption in current federal law to allow health care providers and insurers to provide health care IT equipment to physicians within the scope of certain goals, such as reducing medical errors, lowering costs or improving quality.
In addition, the bill calls for the HHS secretary to establish a "value-based purchasing pilot program" under Medicare to encourage reporting of health care quality data and create a performance-based payment system for health care providers. The HHS secretary could expand the purchasing program nationwide after two years.
The bill also would codify HHS' Office of National Coordination for Information Technology, which currently is developing interoperability standards (CQ HealthBeat, 6/16). The legislation is projected to save as much as $200 billion annually, according to the Tennessean (Madden, Tennessean, 6/17).
Frist said he hopes to pass the health care IT legislation within the next 18 months, adding that he will work with sponsors of other health care IT bills to possibly combine the measures and hasten the legislative process.
Announcing the bill at a news conference in the admissions area of George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., Frist said, "With all of this advanced care, we are still one of the most fragmented systems in the world." He added, "We're in the stone age. We're not in the information age" (CQ HealthBeat, 6/16).
Rodham Clinton said that she and Frist are "determined to move this legislation because for every month that we wait, people are spending money on these systems which may or may not make the kind of seamless system that we are looking for in this country" (AP/Raleigh News & Observer, 6/16). She added, "It would be a terrible shame if every hospital went out and bought their own system from a different vendor" (Tennessean, 6/17).
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a statement that he supports the measure and looks forward to working with the senators to "make electronic medical records secure, accessible and portable for everyone" (CQ HealthBeat, 6/16).