Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stimulus Package Passed

The $787 billion economic stimulus package includes $19 billion for HIT. The HHS Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) will receive $2 billion to use to coordinate health IT policy and programs. Programs will be initiated by the Secretary but the National Coordinator will have the responsibility to move and expand the electronic movement of health information.

The ONC will be able to award grants to states or to Indian Tribes to use to establish a certified EHR Technology Loan Fund Program to help providers. Loans may be used by providers to purchase certified EHR technology, improve EHR technology, to train personal to use the new technology, and to improve the secure electronic exchange of health information. These loans won’t be available until 2010.

The National Coordinator has the responsibility for standards and certification. New health IT Policy and HIT standards committees will be formed to serve as federal advisory committees and the committees will then forward their recommendations to the National Coordinator.

With this legislation, all health care providers and insurers plans that are providing services or products for the federal government will now be required to use only standards compliant health IT systems and products.

Incentive payments of $17.2 billion will be made through Medicare to go to health professionals and hospitals for certified EHR technology. Incentive payments will be made to physicians for the first five years from 2011-2015 if the use of EHR technology is demonstrated. The Medicare payment schedule for eligible professionals is $15,000 for the first year. However, if by 2015, a health professional does not demonstrate the use of EHR, then Medicare reimbursement payments will be reduced.

Hospitals will also receive incentive payments for the first five years for making use of EHR technology. If an eligible hospital does not make meaningful use of the EHR technology by 2015, their reimbursement payments will also be reduced.

According to the publication “Health Data Management”, the Congressional Budget Office projects that health IT provisions in the stimulus package will result in 90% of doctors and 70% of hospitals using certified EHR systems by 2019.

The National Coordinator will be responsible for developing a health IT extension program to provide health IT assistance and to help providers adopt health technology. In addition, Regional Centers will be developed to provide technical assistance.

To enhance educational possibilities in the field of health IT, grants may be provided for demonstration projects to help move and integrate certified EHR technology into clinical education. In addition, assistance will be provided in consultation with the National Science Foundation to establish or expand medical health informatics programs in universities and colleges.

The stimulus package will also provide $4.7 billion for NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, $2.5 billion for USDA’s Distance Learning, Telemedicine, and Broadband Program, $1.5 billion for HRSA to use to build or repair health centers and/or to purchase equipment, $1.1 billion to provide for research within AHRQ, NIH, and HHS, $85 million for health IT and telehealth technologies within the Indian Health Service, $500 million for SSA, and $50 million to provide IT within the Veterans Benefits Administration.