HHS to offer model record
* HHS last week commissioned the Institute of Medicine to create a model electronic record that the agency will share free of charge across the healthcare system. The model record is expected to be ready in 2004. In addition, furthering its plans to foster a standard electronic medical records system, HHS licensed for general use a medical vocabulary system developed by the College of American Pathologists. Under the five-year, $32.4 million licensing agreement, any healthcare organization will be free to use the CAP terminology, HHS said. The agreement "will make it possible for healthcare providers, hospitals, insurance companies, public health departments, medical research facilities and others to easily incorporate this uniform technology system into their information systems," the agency says.
Panels boost funding
* The Senate Appropriations Committee last week gave HHS and the departments of labor and education a $5 billion, or 3.7%, funding increase for fiscal 2004, approving a combined budget of $137.6 billion on a 25-4 vote. The House Appropriations Committee, meanwhile, late last month approved a slightly higher budget -- $137.9 billion. Both bills must pass their respective chambers and then be reconciled. The Senate bill would boost funding for community health centers to $1.6 billion, a $122 million increase over 2003; hospitals would receive $518 million for terrorism preparation, approximately the same as in 2003; and pediatric graduate medical education would receive $290 million, about one-third more than President Bush requested.
GOP bill includes caps
* Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) last week introduced a bill to cap noneconomic damages at $250,000 in medical malpractice cases. The House passed a similar bill in March. At deadline, it was unclear when lawmakers would take up Ensign's bill. According to a statement from Ensign's office, Republican Senate leadership has endorsed the proposal.