Lawmakers want to codify HHS' health IT efforts

Members of Congress have jumped on the health IT bandwagon by introducing several bills to boost the momentum for a national health information exchange.

The highest-profile legislation comes from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), who last week introduced the Health Technology to Enhance Quality Act.

The bill codifies and ad- vances the efforts that were announced earlier this month by Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt and National Health IT coordinator David Brailer to build regional health information networks based on national standards.

The legislation's key provisions call for implementing health IT standards, codifying the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT, establishing standards for exchanging information el-ectronically, and authorizing $125 million annually for five years for grants to local and regional health consortiums to create a health IT infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) offered their Health-Tech Act, S 6411, which would create a five-year, $4 billion grants program through Medicare to provide incentives for physicians to adopt health systems to help manage patients with chronic diseases.

In the House, Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) last month introduced the 21st Century Health Information Act, HR 2234, 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.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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