Congressional Staffers Drafting Health Care IT Bill for 2009

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is committed to passing in the next session of Congress legislation that would require physicians nationwide to adopt health IT and could include negative consequences to encourage providers to do so, according to one of her senior advisers, CQ HealthBeat reports.

At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society public policy forum on Tuesday, Wendell Primus, senior budget and health policy adviser to Pelosi, said, "She believes very strongly that it's a prerequisite, a foundation, upon which our health care system be built." Primus added, "We'll have a good Democratic [health IT] bill early" in 2009 that will make sure "every physician's office is wired as soon as possible."

Primus said congressional staffers currently are working on the measure. He added that the legislation likely will incorporate facets of a House bill (HR 6898) introduced in September by House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.), which includes penalties for providers who do not adopt the technology, and another House bill (HR 6357) introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) that does not include such penalties.

Primus said that Pelosi will support health IT legislation moving forward whether it includes the penalties or not.

Predicting the Future

It is unclear when and how health IT legislation will be addressed in the next Congress because of the questions surrounding a new administration and whether lawmakers will address larger health care reform, according to Primus (Weyl, CQ HealthBeat, 10/28).

Health IT legislation next year could be a free-standing measure or part of a larger health care reform effort.

Primus said that the main health care issues will be "access, cost-value and quality" and that they all could be addressed together. According to Primus, Pelosi believes health IT is an integral part of addressing all three.

Before they take up health IT legislation, Primus said that congressional leadership first must draft an economic stimulus package and address appropriations before the continuing resolution runs out in March.

U.S. Meeting EHR Executive Order

In related news, HHS Deputy Secretary Tevi Troy in an interview with CongressDaily said the U.S. is "well on the way" to meeting a goal of providing at least half of the U.S. population access to electronic health records by 2014 that was part of an executive order issued by President Bush in 2004.

Troy's comments precede the final meeting of the American Health Information Community, a federal advisory panel established to monitor the challenges of implementing a national health IT system. Troy noted that AHIC will be replaced with a $13 million public-private sector collaboration, which will continue the functions of AHIC "no matter who wins the election."

He also noted that the Certification Commission for Health IT, a separate standards-setting organization, is "a very good model" and should be preserved by the new administration because it has been critical "to provide the right type of standards for interoperability and privacy protection" and encourage future adoption of health IT (Noyes, CongressDaily, 10/28).


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