Bipartisan bill proposes $163 million for HIT grants
Bipartisan legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate that aims to increase adoption of IT among health providers who treat low-income patients and provide grant funds for IT projects.

The Wired for Health Care Quality Act of 2007 is sponsored by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). A similar bill was introduced in 2005, but the House and Senate could not agree on a compromised bill before Congress adjourned in 2006.

The bill, over fiscal years 2008 through 2012, would authorize $163 million in grant funds to low-income health providers to adopt IT, help states create low-interest loan programs to help providers acquire IT and assist regional and local health information organizations. The bill also would give an unspecified amount of funds to demonstration initiatives that would combine IT and clinical education. Congress still must approve the grant funds annually, even if the bill is passed.

The legislation would establish the Partnership for Health Care Improvement that would recommend to HHS data standards, interoperability and certification criteria for health IT. The bill also would:
  • Make the national coordinator of health IT a permanent post;
  • Establish the American Health Information Community as a recommendation group for HHS, a function the panel already serves;
  • Require methods for notifying patients about data breaches; and
  • Require the HHS secretary to designate an organization for developing health performance measures.