HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said that a Medicare bill expected to emerge from the Senate later this week should tie the use of health information technology to higher Medicare physician reimbursement.
In my view, any new bill should require physicians to implement health information technology that meets department standards in order to be eligible for higher payments from Medicare, Leavitt said in a written statement. Such a requirement would accelerate adoption of this technology considerably and help to drive improvements in healthcare quality as well as reductions in medical costs and errors.
Members of the Senate Finance Committee and their staffers have been meeting on and off to hash out a Medicare-only bill that would include, in part, physician payment reforms. Negotiations could continue into Wednesday, when the committee has tentatively scheduled a markup of the bill. The House earlier this year passed a raft of Medicare provisions as part of the Childrens Health and Medicare Protection Act.
In the statement, Leavitt also called on lawmakers to keep the Medicare Advantage program as a viable option for seniors. Both the House and Senate would use payment cuts to the program to help defray the cost of the physician fix and other provisions. The secretary said that the program has proven to be highly popular with the American people and worthy of continued support from Congress. -- by Matthew DoBias
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