Bill to extend MU incentives to behavioral healthcare providers

By Molly Merrill
09:26 AM
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A new bill introduced this week aims at expanding eligibility for electronic health record incentives to mental healthcare providers and facilities.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced The Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011 (S. 539) on March 15.

[See also: Legislation seeks to extend meaningful use incentives to mental, behavioral health community]

Whitehouse, who strongly advocated for the investments in health IT made by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, applauded that law's impact in expanding the use of health IT but called for further efforts to include behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities.

"Mental health care is a critical component of our healthcare safety net, and allowing these providers access to cost-saving, quality-enhancing advances in health information technology will improve the care that millions of Americans receive," said Whitehouse. "By expanding the use of electronic health records, my legislation will give mental health professionals access to comprehensive and up to date medical histories, enhancing the precision of diagnoses and reducing medication errors."

[See also: Groups lobby for piece of IT]

The bill will:

  • Expand the types of providers eligible for Medicare and Medicaid incentives for the use of electronic health records to include licensed psychologists and clinical social workers;
  • Expand Medicare hospital incentive funding eligibility to include inpatient psychiatric hospitals;
  • Expand Medicaid hospital meaningful use incentive funding eligibility to include community mental health centers, mental health treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals and substance abuse treatment facilities; and
  • Clarify eligibility of community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities for technical assistance from Regional HIT Extension Centers.