State legislatures back health IT for Medicaid

National Conference of State Legislatures principles for Medicaid reform

The National Conference of State Legislatures has endorsed the federal government’s push for expanded adoption of health information technology, specifically in the troubled Medicaid program.

At its annual meeting in August, NCSL adopted a set of principles for Medicaid reform that includes a call for the Bush administration and Congress to support efforts to increase the use of health IT in the Medicaid program without cutting into funding for states or health benefits for their lower-income residents.

The NCSL resolution says that “Medicaid service funds should not be reduced to support these activities. NCSL urges Congress to provide an enhanced administrative match for information technology services.”

Joy Johnson Wilson, NCSL’s health policy director, said state legislators are aware of the drive for health IT, and “they think it’s important that Medicaid not get left behind.” Medicaid, the nation’s largest health care program, is operated jointly by the state and federal governments and serves primarily low-income people.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) issued a statement applauding NCSL’s “recognition of and commitment to healthcare information technology (IT) as a strategic and mandatory component for Medicaid reform.”

David Roberts, HIMSS vice president for government relations, said he and other HIMSS members attended the NCSL conference in Seattle as part of the society’s advocacy of health IT. Health care is an increasingly important issue in many states, and HIMSS aims to have IT included in governmental responses to the issue, he said.

Rising costs of care and growing enrollments are causing Medicaid to consume a huge portion of many states’ budgets. Between 2003 and 2004 the number of people covered by Medicaid rose nearly 2 million, to 37.5 million, the Census Bureau recently reported.

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