Legislators Take Up Health IT Legislation
The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee on Wednesday will mark up a bill (HR 4157) that would promote the use of health IT and establish national standards on privacy and implementation of electronic health records, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The House action comes more than six months after similar legislation (S 1418) was approved by the Senate in November 2005 (CQ HealthBeat, 5/23).
The House bill, sponsored by subcommittee Chair Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), would codify the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT within HHS and establish a government-sponsored board that would make recommendations for national medical data storage standards. The bill also would clarify that current health privacy laws apply to data that are stored or transmitted electronically (Schuler, CQ Today, 5/23).
In addition, the bill would require the HHS secretary to recommend to Congress a single privacy standard to unify variations in state and federal privacy laws (CQ HealthBeat, 5/23). Furthermore, the bill would increase the number of billing codes health care providers use to file insurance claims from 24,000 to more than 200,000 by Oct. 1, 2009.
The Senate version, passed on Nov. 18 with bipartisan support, would not change the billing code system.
House Democrats oppose the Johnson bill, which they say does not go far enough to protect privacy or create incentives for providers to adopt health care IT (CQ Today, 5/23).
On Tuesday, 120 Democrats sent a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) calling for added provisions in the bill to protect privacy, increase provider incentives, establish funding for the purchase and maintenance of health IT and set a date for adoption of the standards.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the Johnson bill is "weaker" than the Senate bill (CQ HealthBeat, 5/23). "Health IT is a critically important health care issue that both sides can and should agree on," he said, adding, "It's our belief that this legislation must be crafted in a bipartisan manner to ensure broad-based support" (CQ Today, 5/23).
Johnson spokesperson Brian Schubert said the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and "many other groups" support the House bill (CQ HealthBeat, 5/23).