Panel releases details on $20B in health IT spending

The House Ways and Means Committee is calling for $20 billion in spending to encourage the adoption of health information technology, including payments of as much as $65,000 to physicians who can demonstrate that they are using electronic data.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), released details Jan 16 of the Health IT for Economic and Clinical Health Act, which is to be included in an economic stimulus package.

The bill seeks to advance the use of health IT, including electronic health records, Rangel said in a news release.

The measure would spend $20 billion on health IT infrastructure, training, state grants and financial incentives to encourage doctors and hospitals to use health IT, the news release states. The incentives include payments of $40,000 to $65,000 to doctors who can show they are "meaningfully utilizing health IT, such as through the reporting of quality measures," the release states.

The bill would require the federal government to take a leadership role in developing technical standards by 2010 for a nationwide exchange of health data. It would put the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in charge of creating such an infrastructure. Furthermore, the National Institute of Standards and Technology would test health IT products under a voluntary certification process to determine if they meet the standards.

The bill would also strengthen federal privacy and security laws to protect health information from misuse, including requiring patient notification if records are accessed without authorization, allowing patients to request an audit trail of their personal health information and prohibiting the resale of health information.

The committee projected $10 billion in savings from improvements in care and reductions in medical errors and duplicative care.

“As a result of this legislation, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that approximately 90 percent of doctors and 70 percent of hospitals will be using comprehensive electronic health records within the next decade,” the release states.

On Jan. 15, the House Appropriations Committee approved legislation that included $2 billion for health IT and indicated that a total of $20 billion would be spent on health IT.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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