Congress has taken several significant steps toward its long-stated objective of promoting the electronic exchange of health care information to reduce medical errors, improve quality of care and eliminate waste. On January 28, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (the HITECH Act) as part of the larger economic stimulus package. The Senate Appropriations Committee also approved the HITECH Act as part of its version of the stimulus package and the full Senate is expected to vote on the package sometime next week. The House and Senate bills then must be reconciled before both chambers can vote on a final version of the bill.
The stated goal of the HITECH Act is to promote the adoption of electronic health records technology (EHR Technology) by all hospitals and physicians by 2015. In order to achieve this goal, the HITECH Act provides for the establishment of industry standards for integration and implementation of EHR Technology to remove technical obstacles to its widespread adoption. The HITECH Act also includes significant financial incentives to hospitals and other providers to adopt EHR Technology by 2015, as well as penalties for failing to do so.
The key provisions of the HITECH Act include:
- Direct and state block grants to help fund regional and state initiatives to promote the adoption of EHR Technology and best practices;
- An appropriation of $2 billion to $5 billion to support regional and state initiatives to promote the adoption of EHR Technology and best practices;
- An estimated $18 billion in Medicare and Medicaid incentive funds payable to certain or eligible hospitals and providers that adopt EHR Technology before 2015;
- Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement penalties for physicians and hospitals that fail to adopt EHR Technology before 2015;
- Improved privacy and security protections for health information as health IT usage increases;
- The formal establishment of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology;
- Creation of the Health Information Technology (HIT) Policy Committee and the HIT Standards Committee; and
- A process for industry and provider stakeholders to participate in the development of national HIT policies and standards.
The HITECH Act is expected to pass both houses of Congress as part of the final version of the economic stimulus package by Presidents Day and be signed into law by President Barack Obama before the end of February.
Please click on the links below for more information about the economic stimulus bill and Heath IT from House and Senate committees.
Click here for information from the House Committee on Appropriations on the Stimulus Bill and Health IT.
Click here for information from the House Committee on Ways and Means on the Stimulus Bill and Health IT.
Click here for information from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the Stimulus Bill and Health IT.
Click here for information from the Senate Committee on Finance on the Stimulus Bill and Health IT. Click here for information from the Senate Appropriations Committee on the Stimulus Bill and Health IT.