Former Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.), whose push for health information technology legislation almost two years ago flamed out over committee infighting and squabbling over details, has returned to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to pass a bill this time around or else risk stalling the industry's move from paper to computers.
Johnson, the former chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee and current co-chair of the Health IT Now Coalition, said that Congress needs "to act on health information technology this year and not let all the ancillary controversies prevent it."
Johnson added that congressional gaps in action could ultimately skew the benefits of health IT away from the patient. "If we have a hiatus in the process of setting standards, the world doesn't stop just because we didn't do it," she said. "They'll keep plowing away. It'll just be more proprietary, and the public interest will be secondary."
John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers and also a co-chair of the coalition, called legislation in the House and Senate "very much bipartisan," but warned that "we aren't over the goal line and the days grow ever more limited."
The former Michigan governor said federal legislation is needed to help accelerate the pace of health IT development and use. "We've got major U.S. corporations that are moving ahead and the private sector is very active now," he said. "But the federal government has a role to play, and it's an important one."