Congress considers bill to mandate e-prescribing

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To jump-start the implementation of electronic prescribing, House and Senate Democrats introduced bills to mandate e-prescribing for Medicare in 2011.

To jump-start the implementation of electronic prescribing, House and Senate Democrats introduced bills to mandate e-prescribing for Medicare in 2011, and a bipartisan group sent a letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) encouraging it to promptly issue standards for prescribing controlled substances electronically.

The proposed Medicare Electronic Medication and Safety Protection Act, sponsored by PA Rep. Allyson Schwartz and MA Sen. John Kerry, would penalize physicians who continue to write prescriptions by hand after Jan. 1, 2011, but provide a 1% bonus on Medicare evaluation and management services to those who adopt the technology. Also under the bill, physicians could get one-time grants to help offset costs associated with implementing e-prescribing technology or, if they are facing particular hardships, receive a 1- or 2-year exception, as determined by the Department of Health and Human Services.

As for the DEA, it has been considering allowing e-prescribing for controlled substances since 2006. The current requirement to handwrite prescriptions for controlled substances requires physicians to maintain two separate systems-a practice that discourages many doctors from e-prescribing. In response to criticism from senators for the delay in allowing e-prescribing, DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator Joseph T. Rannazzisi promised to provide a formal timeline for the rulemaking process.

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