Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bills to Help More People

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) recently introduced the “Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011” (S.539) to make health information technology available to behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities.

“By expanding the use of electronic health records, this legislation will give mental health professionals access to comprehensive and up-to-date medical histories which help in diagnosing and help to reduce medication errors,” said Whitehouse.

The act would do the following:

• Expand the types of providers eligible for Medicare and Medicaid incentives when they use electronic health records to include licensed psychologists and clinical social workers

• Expand Medicare hospital incentive funding eligibility to include inpatient psychiatric hospitals

• Expand Medicaid hospital meaningful use incentive funding eligibility to include community mental health centers, mental health treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and substance abuse treatment facilities

• Enable community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities obtain technical assistance from Regional HIT Extension Centers

In another legislative action, Senator John Thune (R-SD) reintroduced the “Fostering Independence Through Technology (FITT) Act (S.501) to expand the use of telehealth technology under Medicare in rural and other underserved communities in the U.S. FITT would create a pilot program to provide incentives for home health agencies across the country to use home monitoring and communications technologies.

Under this legislation, home health agencies participating in the pilot program would receive annual incentive payments based on a percentage of the Medicare savings achieved as a result of using telehealth services.