A health information technology group is banking on the Senate to approve comprehensive reform legislation before the October recess. In June, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved bipartisan legislation introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and others to promote the widespread adoption of health IT. The hope is that the Senate will pass the bill in the next month, said Anne Phelps, health policy consultant with the Health IT Now coalition during a policy briefing yesterday.
The legislation among other things sets a date for establishing interoperability standards, provides grants and loans to providers, empowers public-private partnerships and codifies aspects of the health IT effort into law, according to a summary from the group. Progress hasn't been as swift in the House, which has been preoccupied with other healthcare issues this year, such as reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, Phelps said. She added that the House has focused more on privacy issues, than nationwide implementation of electronic health records. No companion bill to the Kennedy legislation has been introduced in the House.
Even if legislation isn't signed into law this year, the coalition will continue its push in 2008 to establish national deployment of health IT, Phelps said. Legislation has a more difficult time getting approved during an election year, yet health IT is on the agenda of many of the presidential candidates, Phelps noted.
Other speakers at the briefing encouraged the development of a universal, streamlined health IT system. "Until we get connectiveness in the system, we won't be able to expand (healthcare) access or control costs," said Neil Trautwein, vice president and employee benefits policy counsel at the National Retail Federation. The coalition is co-chaired by former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) and former Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.).