House Committees Approve Health IT Bill
The House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees on Thursday each approved separate versions of a bill (HR 4157) that would promote the use of health care information technology, CQ Today reports. The bill passed the Energy and Commerce Committee by a vote of 28-14, while Ways and Means approved its version 23-17 (Schuler, CQ Today, 6/15).
The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) and 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 (California Healthline, 6/8).
The Senate passed health IT legislation (S 1418) in November 2005. Many Democratic lawmakers contend that funding sources are needed to help providers adopt the technology.
Neither of the House committees' versions includes grant provisions for providers, while the Senate's version does. In addition, the House Ways and Means version includes a provision that would increase the number of procedure and billing codes from 24,000 to more than 200,000 by 2009.
The Energy and Commerce version does not include the provision. Opponents maintain that the deadline is too soon to adapt to a new system, CQ Today reports.
The two House versions will have to be reconciled before the legislation is considered by the full chamber, possibly next week (CQ Today, 6/15).
Meanwhile, CMS Administrator Mark McClellan said that the current billing and coding systems is "bursting at the seams" and needs to be updated (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 6/15).