House members seek parity for behavioral health electronic records

Amendment would extend health IT payments to mental health professionals

Two lawmakers are urging parity in health information technology incentives for mental health providers under the economic stimulus law.

Behavioral health, mental health and substance abuse professionals should be made eligible for the $17 billion in health IT incentive payments under the law, said Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Tim Murphy (R-Pa.).

Kennedy and Murphy introduced legislation April 15 to modify the stimulus law to ensure that payments are available to behavioral health professionals and facilities.

Under the health IT provisions of the law, at least $17 billion will be distributed through Medicare and Medicaid to doctors and hospitals that buy and "meaningfully use" certified electronic health record (EHR) systems. The Health and Human Services Department has published several regulations about the certification process and how providers can demonstrate meaningful use.

Kennedy and Murphy’s legislation would extend eligibility for the EHR payments to behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities, which are not currently eligible.

The legislation amendment would clarify the definition of health care provider to include behavioral and mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health clinics, and substance abuse treatment facilities. The definition would also include licensed psychologists and clinical social workers.

Kennedy and Murphy, who is a psychologist, are co-chairmen of the 21st Century Health Care Caucus. “We need to treat illnesses of the brain just as we would ailments of any other part of the body,” Kennedy said in a news release.

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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