Senate committee approves merged health IT bill

Senate committee members have approved a bipartisan health information technology bill that combined the Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) bill with the Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)-Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) bill, producing the Wired for Health Care Quality Act.

Senators from the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, chaired by Enzi, marked up the bill last Wednesday, an indication that Senate passage could be speedy after the August recess.

The bill, S.B. 1418, would accelerate nationwide paperless information sharing by establishing a public-private health IT consortium and federal health IT standards. Provisions include $125 million for the first year, to help create grants for hospitals, health care providers and clinical training centers to ease the digital transition, said Melissa Wagoner, a spokeswoman for Kennedy.

“Thirty-three cents out of every health dollar is non-clinical,” Kennedy said at the hearing.

Twenty-five senators are listed as co-sponsors.

The former two bills, both of them with prominent bipartisan sponsors, were similar in many respects.

Still pending are at least four other health IT bills introduced this year in the Senate and at least two in the House.

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