Legislators line up to present IT bills

By Healthcare IT News
12:00 AM

The line forms at the left for Congressional plans offering to provide federal support for healthcare IT efforts.

As of mid-May, at least three proposals are floating around, and more may be surfacing soon.

On May 11, the Senate Republican Task Force on Health Care Costs and the Uninsured, under the leadership of Chairman Sen. Judd Gregg, R-NH, proposed a healthcare plan that would cover more of the nation's uninsured.One of the three legs of the proposal is increased support for healthcare technology, including reducing medication errors through electronic prescribing; using IT to reduce medical errors; using data to identify high-quality providers of care and reduce medical errors.

Improving patient safety is expected to save $2 billion annually, while better use of IT and other technologies will save $7 billion, the committee's report estimated.

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"The best way to improve quality and reduce cost in healthcare is through the use of information technology," he said. "We need to enhance federal leadership, implement necessary information standards, clear away barriers to adoption and provide needed incentives to healthcare providers. I applaud President Bush for providing leadership and drawing attention to this important component of our nation's healthcare system."

Gregg, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, announced his intentions soon after President Bush's speech outlining initiatives aimed at encouraging the use of information technology in healthcare. Three days later, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) introduced a bill pushing the use of electronic records and claims processing. "The Health Care Quality Modernization, Cost Reduction and Quality Improvement Act" (S. 2421) supports IT to improve the healthcare system and would require providers to adopt electronic records and claims processing by 2011 or face reduced reimbursements. The bill would authorize grants, loans and loan guarantees for implementing clinical information systems.

Kennedy's bill also would enable the government to set quality standards; support other care quality and disease prevention initiatives; and require payers to use computerized transaction processing systems.

These proposals join Rep. Patrick Kennedy's mid-March bill called "The Quality, Efficiency, Standards, and Technology for Healthcare Transformation Act," (QUEST). Kennedy (D-R.I.) wants a wired, integrated, paperless healthcare system by 2015. His proposal also includes measures designed to reorient financial incentives for providers to reward, rather than penalize, quality improvements.

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