Bill Would Extend EHR Incentive Pay to Behavioral Health Care

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has introduced a bill (S 539) that would make health IT incentive payments available to mental health care, behavioral health care and substance misuse treatment professionals and facilities, Health Imaging reports.

The Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011 would expand eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid incentive funding. Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records can qualify for incentive payments through Medicaid and Medicare.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Extend Medicaid and Medicare meaningful use incentive payment eligibility to licensed psychologists and clinical social workers;
  • Expand Medicaid incentive funding eligibility to community mental health centers, mental health treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals and clinics that offer substance misuse services;
  • Extend Medicare incentive payment eligibility to inpatient psychiatric hospitals; and
  • Clarify the eligibility of certain behavioral health care providers for technical assistance from regional extension centers (Health Imaging, 3/16).

Whitehouse said the bill would give mental health professionals access to patients' most recent medical histories, thereby improving the accuracy of diagnoses and cutting down on medication errors (Whitehouse release, 3/15).

The legislation has been sent to the Senate Finance Committee (Health Imaging, 3/16).

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