Lawmakers who want to offer a 10% Medicare reimbursement increase for emergency department care are looking to health information technology adoption of all things to offset that pay bump.
ER assistance requested
Congress eyes IT to pay for department pay bump
Last week, a bipartisan group of senators and congressmen reintroduced the Access to Emergency Medical Services Act, which calls for the creation of a national bipartisan commission to examine factors that affect the delivery of care in emergency departments, and asks the CMS to develop standards, guidelines and measures to address boardingkeeping patients in ER exam rooms or in the hallways when inpatient rooms arent availableand ambulance diversion (See related editorial, p. 23).
The legislation would also provide a 10% reimbursement increase to emergency department staff, including on-call specialists who often dont get paid for emergency care.
For too long, emergency care has been the unfunded community service that everyone takes for granted will always be there in the middle of the night, or during a hurricane, or on Christmas day when you are really sick and need help, said Nick Jouriles, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, at a news conference last week.
The Access to Emergency Medical Services Act has yet to be evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office. Yet, Rep. Bart Gordon
(D-Tenn.), one of the bills sponsors, believes the billions of dollars in savings anticipated under some of the health IT provisions in the stimulus law would offset the cost of boosting Medicare payments to emergency care staff.
In the event that most doctors and hospitals adopt electronic health records over the next decade through incentives offered by the stimulus package, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the government could save at least $12 billion through reduced spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other programs, and generate additional savings through improvements in quality of care and reductions in medical errors.
ACEP is hoping that Congress will approve the legislation soon as well as hold hearings on the access problems facing patients who visit emergency departments. The bill had been introduced in the previous Congress, gaining 191 co-sponsors.
Whats not so clear-cut is the timeline and venue of the legislation. Bill co-sponsor Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said its less likely to move as a stand-alone bill in Congress.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.