Senate committee approves combined health IT bill

Lawmakers today approved out of committee a health IT bill that combines the features of two similar pieces of legislation that had attracted wide bipartisan support. The bill aims to accelerate health IT adoption, improve the quality of care and reduce costs.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee voted unanimously to send S 1418, the Wired for Health Care Quality Act, to the Senate floor. It marries the Health Technology to Enhance Quality Act, introduced by Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), and the Better Healthcare Through Information Technology Act, introduced by committee chairman Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). The combined bill has 26 co-sponsors'more than 25 percent of the Senate.

'When millions of Americans struggle to afford health care for their families, it is profoundly wrong to squander more than half a trillion dollars each year on administrative expenses from using obsolete paper records instead of modern IT throughout the healthcare system,' Kennedy said in a statement.

The legislation will:

  • codify the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in the Health and Human Services Department

  • require the development of interoperability standards

  • establish the public-private American Health Information Community, which will recommend which health IT standards to adopt

  • award grants to providers to accelerate health IT adoption

  • develop a quality measurement system to reward providers that improve patient care.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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