Frist, Clinton to offer Senate health IT bill

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) plan to introduce 'strong, comprehensive' legislation Thursday to encourage development of an interoperable health IT network.

The senators said their bipartisan legislation would advance the efforts announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to build a public-private collaboration to decide on standards and interoperability and four requests for proposals to create a technical process for the electronic exchange of health information.

'To further these efforts, we will introduce comprehensive bipartisan legislation soon to encourage creation of an interoperable health IT architecture that fundamentally improves the quality of health care, reduces costs and reduces barriers to the adoption of interoperable health IT across all health care settings,' the senators said in a statement.

Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) introduced the 21st Century Health Information Act, which would provide funding through grants and loans to support the start-up of regional health networks and physician investments in administrative and clinical technology. It also calls for interoperability standards and provisions to let hospitals help fund physicians' IT adoption. The bill mirrors health IT developments that HHS is implementing.

The Frist-Clinton bill will likely incorporate what is in the Kennedy-Murphy bill, but go further in determining a legal framework. 'Frist has a better idea of what is feasible financially,' Kennedy said at a recent conference. More bills are expected to build momentum for a health IT network.

Americans spend $1.7 trillion annually on health care, accounting for more than 15 percent of the economy. That amounts to an average cost of $5,670 per person, Clinton has said. 'Our lagging health IT infrastructure compounds the problem, contributing to fragmentation, waste and inefficiency,' she said. Patient safety is compromised every day due to medical errors, duplication and other inefficiencies.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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