December 10, 2007 - U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt urged Congress Dec. 4 to include a requirement for doctors to use electronic health records as part of any proposed Medicare physician payment bill.
In a letter sent to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) Tuesday, Secretary Leavitt laid out the administration's demand that any Medicare legislation this year include a requirement that doctors adopt health IT.
The bill should "Condition receipt of a portion of any fee adjustment to adoption of certified electronic health information technology. Physicians who do not adopt appropriate, available technology should receive a lower payment than those who do," Leavitt wrote.
The administration, and Leavitt in particular, has made wider adoption of health IT a major priority and a cornerstone of its efforts to promote better quality medical care and a reduction in medical errors.
On Nov. 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a final rule calling for a 10.1 percent reduction in payment rates for physicians beginning Jan. 1, 2008. Physician groups hope to have this reversed by last minute legislation before Congress breaks for the holidays, and for the last five years, Congress has intervened to temporarily suspend requirements the would require decreases.
Despite Leavitt's call for healthcare IT adoption, a physician payment fix bill already faces strain. Congress' last-minute deferral of a five percent cut to Medicare reimbursements last year puts extra pressure on retaining the cut this year.
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