House, Senate Have Yet To Reconcile IT Bills
Negotiations to reconcile House and Senate versions of legislation that would promote the implementation of health care IT have not progressed, and prospects for passage of a final bill prior to the midterm elections are uncertain, according to congressional aides, CongressDaily reports (Lee, CongressDaily, 9/12).
The House on July 27 approved HR 4157, which aims to accelerate the use of health IT to improve efficiency and care quality, reduce medical errors and securely provide better information to patients and providers. The legislation passed by a 270-148 vote, mostly along party lines. Many Democrats opposed the bill because it did not strengthen privacy protections for personal health information (California Healthline, 7/28).
The Senate in November 2005 passed S 1418, which would establish national standards for health records storage and interoperability and codify the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in HHS. The Senate bill, unlike the House version, would provide some public funding to help implement the legislation (California Healthline, 9/5).
"The biggest sticking point" in negotiations to resolve the differences in the bills involves the exemption of anti-kickback laws, CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 9/12). In addition, lawmakers cannot agree on funding, privacy and interoperability issues (CongressDaily, 9/11).
A spokesperson for Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said, "There are difficult issues being addressed," adding, "But we hope we can reach a compromise that Congress can vote on" (CongressDaily, 9/12).