House passes health IT bill

The House today approved a health IT bill that the White House earlier in the day had announced its support for.

The Health Information Technology Promotion Act (H.R. 4157) aims to accelerate the use of health IT to improve efficiencies, reduce medical errors, improve quality of care and provide better information for patients and their providers in a seamless and secure manner.

'The administration supports House passage of HR 4157, which will promote a nationwide interoperable health information technology network that will help Americans receive high-quality medical care by giving health care providers and patients secure and privacy-protected access to patients' medical information and history at the time of care,' the Office of Management and Budget said in a Statement of Administrative Policy on the matter.

Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, introduced the bill, which had broad bipartisan support with 58 co-sponsors.

The passage of the bill marks a critical step forward in the modernization of the U.S. health care sector, said Rhett Dawson, president of the Information Technology Industry Council, an industry group.

'Today's health-care system is dangerously reliant on paper-based prescription and record-keeping techniques that are expensive, inefficient and even deadly. This bill will help reverse that trend and lay the foundation for the widespread adoption of health information technology and nationwide health information system,' he said.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), another industry group, cited the legislation also for its provisions for grants funding and reform of health care Stark anti-kickback and anti-fraud laws.

'HR 4157 represents crucial first steps in making health IT more widely available,' said HIMSS president H. Stephen Leber.

The administration said it expects Congress in the future will address issues of interoperability, program integrity, disease classification code sets and transparency on health care prices and quality.

During the afternoon, lawmakers in the House approved amendments to the bill to:
  • establish a two-year project to demonstrate the impact of health IT on disease management for chronic disease sufferers within the Medicaid population;
  • improve coordination of care for the uninsured, underinsured, and medically underserved residing in geographically isolated areas or underserved urban areas;
  • create a study that provides benchmarks for best practices and cost-effectiveness for the use of health IT in medically underserved areas.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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