Behavioral healthcare groups have inched a little closer to their goal of ensuring that the country's mental-healthcare facilities are eligible for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's meaningful-use
Before leaving for this week's July 4 recess, Reps. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) introduced the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2012, which would include behavioral health providers—such as psychiatric hospitals, mental-health and substance-abuse professionals, community mental-health centers, and inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment facilities—in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health, or HITECH, Act that was enacted as part of the Recovery Act in 2009. That legislation included about $20 billion for health information technology but did not include funding for psychiatric hospitals.
More than a year ago, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced similar legislation in the Senate. The House bill would be paid for by including the Safeguarding Access for Every Medicare Patient, or SAFE, Act, a bill from Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.)
that creates safe harbors for Medicare and Medicaid providers who use certified electronic health-record systems.
"We've been working very hard for a House bill, and we're very pleased to have this in now," Mark Covall, president and CEO of the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, said in an interview. "It's essential that we get the financial incentives that are out there for med-surg hospitals for wiring for IT because behavioral health is so integral to all of healthcare," he added.
Chuck Ingoglia, senior vice president of public policy and practice improvement at the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, said that although it's unlikely that Congress will pass much legislation in the remainder of the year, he hopes that this Congress or the next "will see the wisdom of extending these payments."