Bush administration calls for health IT to control costs

Requiring the use of health information technology is part of the Bush administration’s plan for controlling future Medicare costs.

Under legislation the administration has sent Congress, the Health and Human Services Department would be required to develop and implement a system for encouraging the nationwide adoption and use of interoperable electronic health records and making electronic personal health records available to Medicare beneficiaries.

That provision could empower the government to require doctors and hospitals to use e-health records.

The administration was required to send Congress the legislative proposal under terms of previous legislation enacted in response to growing Medicare costs. Congress now must take action on the bill, although it can modify the measure substantially.

“Without smart changes now, Medicare can consume a growing and an unsustainable share of the federal budget,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt told reporters in a conference call.

“Medicare is a system that needs to be modernized and to be transformed. If consumers were allowed to make decisions through an efficient market that had electronically connected records, quality measures, cost comparisons, and choices and incentives, their decisions would be far more precise and wise than those that are made today. It would produce a better result, better health care and lower costs,” Leavitt said.

The health IT provisions are part of a larger proposal for what the administration has labeled “value-based health care.” The proposal calls for publishing the costs of medical care under Medicare and publishing quality scores for health care providers. Fees paid to providers would be based in part on the quality and efficiency of care provided.

The bill states that HHS “shall use and release Medicare data for quality improvement, performance measurement, public reporting and treatment-related purposes,” although the privacy of individuals would be respected.

If it is passed as drafted, the measure also would increase drug costs for some more affluent Medicare recipients and would limit malpractice suits.

About the Author

Nancy Ferris is senior editor of Government Health IT.

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