House Passes Bill To Promote of Health IT
The House on Thursday voted 270-148 to approve an amended version of a Senate bill (S 1418) passed last November that would promote the use of health care information technology, CQ Today reports. Prior to the vote, lawmakers inserted into the legislation the text of a House bill (HR 4157) (Crowely, CQ Today, 7/27).
The House bill, 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 and would require the HHS secretary to recommend to Congress a privacy standard to reconcile differences in federal and state laws (American Health Line 7/27).
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 October 2010. In addition, the legislation includes an exemption of anti-kickback laws that would allow hospitals to provide health care IT hardware and software to individual physicians. According to CQ Today, the legislation differs significantly from the Senate bill, which does not include the provision on billing codes or the exemption of anti-kickback laws.
Prior to passage of the House bill, the House voted 417-1 to approve an amendment that would require a study to establish standards for the use of health care IT in medically underserved areas.
In addition, the House by voice vote approved amendments that would improve the availability of health care information and resources for individuals with low literacy levels; require the inclusion of emergency contact or next-of-kin information in processes used to modernize health care records; provide grants to geographically isolated and medically underserved urban areas; clarify that the purpose of revisions to billing codes involve only diagnosis documentation or billing use; and require the HHS secretary to establish and report on a two-year demonstration project on the effects of the use of health care IT in disease management for Medicaid beneficiaries with chronic conditions.
Business groups, such as Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers, praised the passage of the bill. John Castellani, president of Business Roundtable, "Today's vote brings us one step closer to establishing a nationwide system that will reduce administrative costs, increase quality and efficiency, and improve patient safety."
However, America's Health Insurance Plans and some Democrats raised concerns about the provisions on billing codes and interoperability standards included in the legislation. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who voted against the bill, said, "How can we have an IT bill that doesn't set a date certain for implementation of the technology?" Some Democrats also raised concerns that the legislation lacked adequate medical privacy protections (CQ Today, 7/27).