In a sign that federal lawmakers are set to take another run at a health information technology bill, a bipartisan group of House leaders on Thursday released a legislative blueprint that strengthens federal privacy protections, offers financial streams for provider start-up costs and creates a handful of advisory committees to guide implementation each step of the way.
The provisions included in this proposal will encourage faster adoption of health information technology while also ensuring that patients health information is protected, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a written statement. Dingell, along with the committees senior Republican, Joe Barton (R-Texas), and the health subcommittees leaders Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), drafted the provisions. A five-page memo has been circulated to other committee members as well.
The draft bill is particularly striking in its breadth and timing. The health IT roadmap takes a number of cues from previous legislation that has been submitted over the past several years, including provisions to strengthen the role of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and requiring federal agencies to essentially adopt an all-electronic platform.
Several privacy loopholes are also addressed. The framework carries provisions that would hold the keepers of health information more closely accountable for security and privacy breaches. Another provision aims to strip out personal identifying information as a consumers health information is shared with a limited few.
As we move towards greater reliance on electronic records for health data, we also need to be more vigilant in protecting those records, which are the most sensitive of all our personal information, Pallone said.
House movement on health IT comes shortly after negotiators in the Senate found some common ground on the long-stuck Wired for Health Care Quality Act. Still, the fate of that legislation has been clouded after one of the bills architects, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), was diagnosed with brain cancer on Tuesday.