Bill would nix health identifier

Citing privacy concerns, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) last week introduced legislation that would repeal a previous law directing the government to assign citizens a standard identification code for obtaining health care.

Burns said the law, part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, had the "laudable" goal of making it easier for doctors to obtain patients' medical histories. But he said the law failed to consider privacy issues.

Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services are working with the health care industry and others to determine how to assign a unique identifier for each American.


Congress agrees on high-tech visas

Moving to alleviate the nationwide shortage of high-tech workers, House and Senate negotiators came to a compromise last week on legislation to increase the number of temporary visas over the next four years.

Since the cap of 65,000 H-1B visas was reached in May, government agencies and corporations have found it more difficult to hire information technology staff, and many organizations have used foreign workers to fill high-tech job vacancies.

The modified bill will bring the number of visas to 115,000 by 2002 and also will require assurances that U.S. firms will not displace American workers.

The House will vote next week on the bill.


Clinton signs IRS reform bill

President Clinton last week signed a bill that would reform the Internal Revenue Service and keep the agency on track to modernize its computer systems.

The IRS Restructuring and Reform Bill sets a goal for the IRS to receive 80 percent of tax returns from individuals in electronic form by 2007.

To do so, the bill allows the agency to waive a legal requirement that taxpayers sign a paper form even when they file online. The waiver gives the agency time to develop digital signature capabilities, which would enable the agency to electronically verify who sent the tax return.


Navy taps Lockheed for 2 deals

The Navy this month awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. two contracts potentially worth more than $473 million to integrate commercial off-the-shelf information technology into the entire inventory of Navy tactical display and computing systems.

In the most recent and lucrative award, Lockheed Martin collected a $281 million win for a follow-on contract to the Navy's AN/UYQ-70 computer system program, a family of tactical display and computer systems found on every ship in the Navy. They support applications such as missile command and control, sonar sensors, submarine displays and graphics, and airborne reconnaissance.


BOP taps two for BPAs

The Bureau of Prisons announced last week that it had awarded blanket purchase agreements to Vanstar Government Systems Inc. and Intellisys Technology Corp. for $50 million total to provide the bureau with the hardware, software and services it needs to maintain its networks.

Lockheed Martin also won a $77 million pact for the design and production of two anti-submarine warfare systems that will receive information from hull-mounted and towed sensors as well as from aboard helicopters to create a picture of potential submarine threats.


Kahn tapped for IT panel

President Clinton last week announced he will appoint Robert Elliot Kahn to the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee.

Kahn is chairman of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives.

The committee— formerly known as the Advisory Committee on High-Performance Computing and Communications, Information Technology and the Next Generation Internet— reports to the president through his science adviser.


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