Senate leaders on Wednesday joined with the business elite in a concerted effort to push through legislation that would give providers a financial helping hand to adopt electronic health records, electronic prescribing systems and a host of computerized tools aimed at improving overall cost and quality of care.
American patients have waited long enough for the difference that health IT can make in improving care, said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and a co-sponsor of the Wired for Healthcare Quality Act.
Kennedy, joined at a news conference by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), also a co-sponsor, Ivan Seidenberg, chairman and chief executive officer of Verizon Communications and Ronald Williams, chairman and CEO of Aetna, rallied for the bills passage, using multiple sources to show the cost savings healthcare IT can deliver.
The sense of urgency was palpable. The bill, which unanimously passed the Senate in November 2005 before stalling in the House, is again stuckonly this time in a Senate committee that has balked over lax privacy and security issues.
Provisions in the bill would allow qualified providers to tap about $300 million in grants and loans to help defray the upfront costs of buying the necessary technology. It would also create a public-private partnership to make technical recommendations to HHS, and require all federal IT purchasers to follow national standards.
While both senators agreed that the bill wasnt perfect, each of them stressed the importance of moving forward with the process.
Getting something done is better than hoping for something perfect that takes 12 or 15 years to facilitate, Enzi said.
Kennedy agreed. Our point is, lets get it started, he added.