House and Senate faced with e-prescription mandate bill

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Dec. 6 – The U.S. House and Senate have been presented with bi-partisan legislation that would mandate electronic prescriptions under the Medicare program starting Jan. 1, 2011.

The bill authorizes a one-time Medicare payment to e-prescribing physicians of $2,000 in 2008 or 2009; $1,500 in 2010 or 2011; and $1,000 in subsequent years. The bill would also authorize a 1 percent bonus payment for claims that include electronic prescriptions.

The fee schedule would be reduced by 10 percent for Medicare claims submitted on or after Jan. 1, 2011, including prescriptions not electronically generated. After that date,
physicians that continue to write prescriptions by hand will face a per-claim financial penalty.

The legislation permits the Department of Health and Human Services to issue one- to two-year hardship waivers to the e-prescribing mandate “in cases of demonstrated hardship or unforeseen circumstances,” especially those from rural areas or very small (or solo) practices.

The Medicare Electronic Medication and Safety Protection Act of 2007 is sponsored in the Senate by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass.; John Ensign, R-Nev.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; and Mel Martinez, R-Fla. House sponsors are Reps. Allyson Schwartz, D-Penn., and Jon Porter, R-Nev.

“E-prescribing will save money, save time, save doctors from piles of paperwork, and most importantly, save lives,” Kerry said.  “Deaths and injuries from handwritten prescriptions could be nearly eliminated if e-prescriptions were adopted on a wide scale. We need to seize this bi-partisan opportunity and make this common sense reform a reality now.”

Ensign added to Kerry’s comments, saying, “With this bill, we're helping to bring our healthcare system into the 21st century in a way that will result in fewer mistakes and lower costs. Doctors and medical professionals should utilize the best of today's technology to improve patient safety and advance our quality of healthcare.  E-prescribing is an easy solution that will save lives, time and money.”