U.S. Senate backs expanded physician eligibility for MU

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The U.S. Senate has passed legislation to expand the number of eligible physicians who might receive incentive payments for the meaningful use of health IT under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

H.R. 4213, which passed on a 62-36 vote, also delays the date of a Medicare payment cut to physicians until Oct. 1, extends unemployment benefits and includes various tax breaks.

Some groups, such as the American Academy of Family Physicians, have commented that the meaningful use definitions in the notice of proposed rule could potentially exclude physicians and providers who could benefit from the incentive program.

In the legislation’s language, Section 1848(o)(1)(c)(ii) of the Social Security Act (Medicare) is to be amended by deleting “setting (whether inpatient or outpatient)” and replacing it with “inpatient or emergency room setting.” In addition, the section involving Medicaid--Section 1903(t)(3)(D) of the Social Security Act--is to be amended by striking “setting (whether inpatient or outpatient)” and replacing it with “inpatient or emergency room setting,” according to the legislation.

According to H.R. 4213, the amendments will take effect “as if included in the enactment of the HITECH Act (included in the ARRA).”

The bill must now go to the House of Representatives.