Congress kicks off New Year with new look at health IT

February 1, 2007

Despite efforts in 2006 to reconcile two significantly different Senate and House bills on health information technology, Congress this year hopes to create new legislation that both chambers can agree on. And the new Congress-with a Democratic majority-";will likely pay a large part in determining how information technology priorities will be handled," reported American Medical News (1/1-8/2007).

Despite efforts in 2006 to reconcile two significantly different Senate and House bills on health information technology, Congress this year hopes to create new legislation that both chambers can agree on. And the new Congress-with a Democratic majority-"will likely pay a large part in determining how information technology priorities will be handled," reported American Medical News (1/1-8/2007).

For one, new legislation is not likely to contain provisions that would exempt physicians and hospitals from Stark laws. Since the author of these laws, Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), is set to head the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, it's a safe bet that attempts to loosen restrictions that prohibit self-referrals when doctors receive IT donations will not occur. Instead, House Democrats may seek other means to ensure that physicians have access to electronic medical record systems and other technology that they may not otherwise be able to afford-such as providing federal grants to physicians to buy health IT.

In addition, the push for physicians to start using an updated version of the ICD-9 diagnostic codes within 4 years will not likely be pursued. Instead, Congress may leave it up to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to propose a rule addressing the industry's move to the ICD-10.