Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill that would provide $625 million over five years for regional and local healthcare information technology projects, among other steps to speed IT adoption in the industry. The legislators, potentially future presidential rivals, lined up an all-star team of private-sector supporters, including the AFL-CIO, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. The bill would establish legal safe harbors allowing hospitals and other organizations to extend their IT systems to doctors and medical groups, for example. It would legislatively codify the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in HHS, created last year by President Bush through executive order, and increase the coordinator's authority. The coordinator would chair a permanent IT standards work group made up of representatives from several federal agencies and the private sector, and HHS would have the authority to adopt the group's recommendations as standards for the entire federal government.
The more than 35 organizations listed as supporting the bill include several from healthcare, among them: America's Health Insurance Plans, the American Medical Group Association, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. Neither the American Hospital Association nor the American Medical Association were on the list. The AMA said it still was reviewing the legislation, and at deadline the AHA had not responded to a request for comment. A Frist spokesman said many organizations were still deciding on the bill. It is the second major IT legislation introduced this week. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) are sponsoring legislation that would provide $4 billion over five years to help providers implement IT. Read more about the bill on Frist's Web site. -- by Joseph Conn