Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas), chairman of the House Regulations, Healthcare and Trade Subcommittee, and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), one of a handful of medical doctors serving in Congress, yesterday introduced legislation that would dole out grants, loans and tax incentives to small physician practiceson average 10 or fewer full-time employeesto help offset the high costs of health information technology.
The bill would allow Medicare to give qualified physicians payment incentives that would be used toward the purchase of a health IT infrastructure, such as an electronic health records system, evidence-based clinical decision support tools and secure e-mail. The Department of Health and Human Services could include additional payments for evaluation and care management services, payments for structured e-mail consults plus any other method the department deems necessary.
The amount of reimbursement, the bill states, would be based on a number of factors, including the type and cost of the equipment, and how it's being used. Grants and loans, too, would be subject to the secretary's discretion, the bill said.
Additionally, the bill would amend the tax code to increase the amount that can be deducted for purchasing qualified health IT products for physician practices that fall under the IRS' broad definition of a small business. Doctors could use the higher deduction for equipment that was put into service at the beginning of the year.