Lawmakers to mark up federal-employee health IT bill

Federal employees will have phased-in components of electronic health records under legislation that will be revised and marked up tomorrow.

The legislation aims to hasten the voluntary adoption of electronic health records for federal employees who participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) will offer an amendment to his health IT legislation that is in the form of a substitute for H.R. 4859, the Federal Family Health IT Act of 2006, introduced in March. Porter, chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, has sought comments from health IT stakeholders.

The amendment also prohibits hiking the price of premiums for federal employees. Insurers who reap savings from the use of electronic health records must credit it back to the federal health plan, the amendment says.

Porter's legislation will advance the creation and adoption of electronic health records, said David Powner, director of the Government Accountability Office's IT management issues at a field hearing earlier this month in St. Louis.

'Leveraging the federal government as a purchaser and provider of health care is critical,' he said, adding that the legislation does just that.

Electronic health records are designed to reduce medical errors, lower health care costs and empower consumers by giving them and their providers access to critical information about their health status and medical needs.

Under the amendment, insurance plans that participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program within four years will provide the 8 million federal workers and their dependents carrier-based electronic health records from claims data on hospital and physician visits. By the following year, the carrier would provide a personal electronic health record that, upon request of the federal employee, integrates the individual's carrier and provider electronic health records.

Insurers are to provide grants and incentives to their contracted providers to implement interoperable provider-based electronic health records from health professionals who have furnished care for the individuals. The Office of Personnel Management, which administers the federal health benefit plans, will establish a trust fund to receive donations for use as grants to carriers to encourage the use of electronic health records.

Within five years of implementing the carrier-based electronic health records, carriers must provide a requesting member a portable electronic health record contained on a digital medium.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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