With Arizona making strides in its effort to electronically connect the states healthcare providers, the federal government last week floated a possible method for funding its own national effort: charging a fee for each transaction taking place on its planned national health information network.
The idea of raising revenue with a transaction fee was broached last week at a public discussion on the proposed private-sector successor to the federally controlled health information technology advisory panel, the American Health Information Community.
Revenue for the new, privately run and funded version of AHIC could come from the sale of products and services, including from fees charged per transaction just as the Visa credit card network provides similar exchange services for financial transactions, said Robert Kolodner, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS.
Visa is able to move transactions around the world for less than a penny, Kolodner said. The new AHIC, he said, could raise funds to support itself and the national network by similarly charging a few cents per transaction on the Visa model. It would be a break-even resource, he said.
Kolodner discussed the possible changes Sept. 5 during a forum for potential bidders on a federal contract to create the AHIC successor, dubbed by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt as AHIC 2.0 (Aug. 27, p. 21).
The new AHIC also could take on the responsibility of being the provider of governance and services for the national health information network being planned, Kolodner said.
Right now, there isnt a specific way for the regional health information exchanges (to) organize on a national level, but that may come into being with the AHIC 2.0, Kolodner said. Meanwhile, some RHIOs are struggling to survive (See story, p. 32).
But some believe that the federal government may be getting ahead of itself trying to make plans for the private AHIC when theres still plenty to do setting electronic healthcare standards. Before AHIC gets to worrying with secondary issueshow the information network will be governed or who is going to charge fees on transactions moving across it, duties the current AHIC does not havethe successor organization is going to have a full plate simply handling activities the current AHIC and HHS does control or have influence over, said Tom Leary, senior director of federal affairs for the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.
The winning bidder on the $13 million, two-year HHS contract would establish a planning board to set up the corporate structure of the new AHIC and work with HHS in choosing members for its initial board of directors.
HHS plans to award a contract by November to the winning bidder on the AHIC 2.0 conversion.