New legislation proposes awarding a half billion dollars a year for health IT—half in grants, half in loans.
The bill was introduced Monday by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and would allocate funds from 2006 to 2011. Additional legislation written jointly by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., R-Tenn., and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., to promote the development of regional health information networks is expected later this month.
The bill (Senate 1223) proposed by Dodd creates a new executive office of National Health Information Technology. The head of this office would be appointed by and report directly to the president. Though the position of National Health Information Coordinator was created by President Bush, the HHS (Health and Human Services) secretary supervises and appoints the coordinator. Current coordinator, David Brailer, was named by former Secretary Tommy Thompson in May last year, shortly after the position was established.
Six months after the creation of the proposed executive position, the IT director would make recommendations for “federal reimbursement and payment structures that would encourage the adoption of information technology (IT) to improve health care quality and safety.”
The proposed executive office would be required to approve any health IT policy changes implemented by other government agencies, and it would be required to adopt standards to promote interoperability within two years of its creation. One year after the adoption of standards, the secretary of Health and Human Services could only purchase clinical systems if they complied with these standards.
The federal government is the largest health care payer in the country. Together, the Veterans Administration, Medicare and Medicaid pay over 40 percent of the nations health care bills.