Subcommittee swiftly passes $575M health IT bill to the House

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Subcommittee pushes health IT bill closer towards vote. Source: Advanced Biological Laboratories  

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Wednesday approved the $575 million health IT bill to speed the adoption of EHRs. The approval came one day after House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., and ranking member Joe Barton, R-Texas, introduced the legislation to the subcommittee.

The legislation, H.R. 6357, has been referred to the Science & Technology and Ways & Means Committees.

Health Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said he hoped the entire committee would consider the bill before August recess, according to CongressDaily.

The bill would affect the HIPAA privacy and security rules, calling for security safeguards under the security rule and penalties for violations apply to business associates in the same manner as applied to covered entities. It would also require individuals affected by breaches of unencrypted protected health information to be notified “without unreasonable delay and no later than 60 calendar days after discovery.”

The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with stakeholders, to annually issue guidance on the latest technologies for protecting information, according to CongressDaily.

According to the Government HealthIT, Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., the subcommittee’s ranking member, said he supports the bill but has concerns about the provisions regarding consent and marketing.

The consent provision states that doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers who adopt EHRs “may not use or disclose such protected health information for purposes of healthcare operations unless the [provider] obtains the consent of the individual to disclose such information for such purposes, and any such consent shall be revocable by the individual at any time,” Deal told Government HealthIT.

Other provisions of the legislation include:

  • Requiring regional health information organizations (RHIO), health information exchanges (HIE) and e-prescribing gateways;

  • Authorizing grant programs to offer matching funds to providers to purchase IT, help states offer low-interest loans to providers for IT purchases, and support local or RHIOs to develop HIE initiatives. The bill would authorize total annual funding of $115 million for the three grant programs through fiscal 2013;
  • Creating a demonstration program, with $10 million in funding, to integrate health IT into clinical education;
  • Codifying the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT), making the position permanent and authorizing $66 million in appropriations for the office in fiscal 2009; and
  • Establishing two federal advisory committees to prioritize and develop technical data standards.

“Health IT almost made it through the last Congress, but it got down to the last day and the last hour of lame-duck session, and [we] just couldn't quite get there," Barton told CongressDaily, adding he hoped for final passage this fall.