In outlining his healthcare agenda for 2009, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said one of his goals is to promote widespread use of health information technology.
Stark in September introduced the Health-e Information Technology Act of 2008, which would take steps to establish an interoperable health IT system and assist providers with the resources to adopt such a system.
The U.S. needs a standardized records system, Stark said, emphasizing that such technology would reduce costs and medical errors and assist with public health emergencies.
Other priorities in 2009 include Medicares physician pay fix, reauthorization of the State Childrens Health Insurance Program, and working with the Obama administration on general healthcare reforms, Stark said.
Stark believes Congress should erase Medicares physician payment formulaand the debt that goes with itand start from scratch. Medicares sustainable growth-rate formula, or SGR, used to determine physician payments, is tied to growth in the economy and has been threatening payment reductions since 2003. Deferring these cuts through congressional actions has resulted in billions of dollars in debt to the federal government. The key is getting lawmakers on the budget committees and the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats to forgive this so-called credit card debt, Stark said.
Even more pressing is the reauthorization of SCHIP, he said. SCHIPs temporary extender bill expires in March 2009, Stark said, citing Medicare Advantage overpayments and physician specialty hospitals as two likely sources for financing the bill.