HHS urges Congress to include IT adoption in physician payment fix bill

Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt urged Congress yesterday to include a requirement for doctors to use electronic health records as part of any proposed Medicare physician payment bill.

On Nov. 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a final rule calling for a 10.1 percent reduction in payment rates for physicians beginning Jan. 1, 2008.

Physician groups hope to have this reversed by last minute legislation before Congress breaks for the holidays, and for the last five years, Congress has intervened to temporarily suspend requirements the would require decreases.

Despite Leavitt's call for healthcare IT adoption, a physician payment fix bill already faces strain. Congress' last-minute deferral of a 5 percent cut to Medicare reimbursements last year puts extra pressure on retaining the cut this year.

"In my view, any new bill should require physicians to implement health information technology that meets department standards in order to be eligible for higher payments from Medicare," Leavitt said. "I'm confident that many members of Congress are of a like mind on this issue and I will actively work with them in the near future."

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