Health Care IT Legislation Under Consideration
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on Thursday will mark up a bill (HR 4157) that would promote the use of health care information technology and establish national standards on privacy and implementation of electronic health records, CQ Today reports (Schuler, CQ Today, 6/7). The legislation, sponsored by subcommittee Chair Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), would codify the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within HHS and would establish a committee to make recommendations on national standards for medical data storage and develop a permanent structure to govern national interoperability standards.
The bill also would clarify that current medical privacy laws apply to data stored or transmitted electronically and would require the HHS secretary to recommend to Congress a privacy standard to reconcile differences in federal and state laws. Under the bill, the number of billing codes health care providers use to file insurance claims would increase from 24,000 to more than 200,000 by Oct. 1, 2009.
The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health approved legislation in May (California Healthline, 5/25).
According to an Energy and Commerce Committee spokesperson, Deal plans to offer a substitute manager's amendment to the bill during the markup, CongressDaily reports (Heil, CongressDaily 6/7). The Senate in November 2005 adopted a similar bill (S 1418) that would authorize grants to providers that store and distribute health information electronically.
The House bill would not authorize such funding (CQ Today, 6/7). Democrats say that the House bill does not include strong enough privacy protections and has too broad an exemption in anti-kickback laws, CongressDaily reports.
According to CongressDaily, the health IT bill is slated for a House vote during a "Health Week," beginning June 19. The House also might consider legislation (HR 2355) by Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) that would allow health insurers to offer plans across state lines. The bill was approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee in July 2005. Other bills that could be considered address graduate medical education and the reauthorization the federal community health center program, the Ryan White CARE Act and the CDC foundation (CongressDaily, 6/7).
In related news, former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Brailer on Wednesday predicted that Congress will pass the bill and that President Bush will sign legislation this year aimed at speeding the adoption of health IT, CQ HealthBeat reports. At a conference sponsored by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society in Washington, Brailer said that once the first set of common health IT standards are set by the Health Information Standards Board in September, government officials will "rapidly take those up into the internal systems, into the contracting, into the benefits purchasing of federal agencies."
He said, "The federal government has to be the first in line to be able to do this. And this means that agencies have to be able to look at their contracts, how it is that they procure services from health plans, from doctors, from hospitals, from other suppliers." Brailer suggested that if the government does not immediately put the common standards to use in its purchasing, adoption of the standards could take five to seven years, instead of one or two.
CMS Administrator Mark McClellan also addressed the conference, highlighting several federal pilot projects to promote quality-based payment and the use of health care IT, CQ HealthBeat reports. The pilots include efforts to increase doctors' use of handheld prescribing devices, grants to encourage the formation of regional networks to transmit electronic health care data and a plan to develop electronic health records for Medicare beneficiaries (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 6/7).