In an eleventh-hour move to introduce legislation before year end, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) introduced a bill in the House that would increase tax deductions for healthcare providers who purchase IT systems. The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.), Shelley Moore (R-W.Va.) and Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), amends the Internal Revenue Code so that in the first year of purchase, providers would see an equipment deduction go from $100,000 to $250,000 and see an increase in the maximum annual total of deductible property go from $400,000 to $600,000.
Those two provisions aim to give physician offices a greater incentive by allowing them to write off more of the total expense of an EMR system in the first year, and would also allow them to include other medical equipment purchases that same year. The bill also provides a tax credit to healthcare professionals for telecommunication charges equal to 50% of their yearly telecommunication charges incurred by using an EMR system, with an annual maximum of $10,000. "We know the positive impact health IT has on healthcare quality and cost," Gingrey said in a statement. "But if healthcare providers can't afford this technology, patients across America won't be able to reap the benefits. This legislation is an integral step toward encouraging providers to adopt technology that will move our healthcare system into the 21st century by modernizing the way care is delivered."
Gingrey's bill is the capper on an active year for Health IT legislation. Since May, more than a dozen bills have been introduced that contain, in part, HIT language. And though few have made it to a vote -- Sen. Mike Enzi passed a bill in the Senate that offers $650 million in grants to healthcare organizations -- few others have had such luck. Many of those bills have been referred to various conferences for more study. Still, the sheer number of bills -- and the signers-on they've attracted -- bodes well for legislation in the future, said David Merritt, project director at the Center for Health Transformation. Merritt says that a bill introduced by Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), for instance, shows promise because of its exemptions to the Stark Rules and kickback laws. It also lays out a roadmap for harmonizing state privacy laws and would move the healthcare industry from using ICD-9 codes to ICD-10, he said.