Photo: Rep. Phil Hare Tours Memorial Medical Center of Springfield, IL
Economic Stimulus Bill With HIT Incentives Signed Into Law By President
President Barack Obama signed a massive economic stimulus package into law Feb. 17 that includes $19.2 billion in Medicare incentive payments for physicians and hospitals to adopt Health Information Technology—hospital-based physicians, however may be excluded from the incentives.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, H.R. 1, allows physicians to receive $40,000 to $65,000 to assist with the cost associated with adopting HIT. Physicians will demonstrate that they are meaningfully using health information technology, including Electronic Medical Records, through the reporting of quality measures.
“It’s an investment that will take the long overdue step of computerizing America’s medical records,“ Obama stated, “to reduce the duplication and waste that costs billions of health care dollars and the medical errors that every year cost thousands of lives.”
Hospital-based pathologists, however, are explicitly excluded from directly receiving any Medicare EMR incentives. To prevent duplicate government payments, lawmakers elected only to provide millions of dollars in Medicare HIT incentives directly to hospitals.
The determination of eligibility for a hospital-based professional will be made based on the Secretary’s definition of “site of service”—without regard to any employment or billing arrangement.
Included in the law is a requirement for the government to develop standards by 2010 that allow for the nationwide electronic exchange and use of health information.
Additionally, a study is required on the current availability and interoperability of open source health information technology systems for Federal “safety net” providers that predominately serve uninsured, Medicaid and SCHIP beneficiaries and small, rural providers.
H.R. 1 passed the House Feb. 13 with 246 yeas and 183 nays, while its counter-part passed the Senate 60 to 38—both votes cut sharply down partisan lines.
To see how your elected officials voted on this legislation, log onto www.capwiz.com/cap and click on the “Issues and Legislation” section.
The College anticipates tremendous advantages from the adoption of the electronic health record system, and will continue to carefully monitor the Health Information Technology provisions in the economic stimulus package and advocate for HIT’s incorporation in the broader healthcare agenda.
CAP Urges OIG to Remove Labs from the Safe Harbor Protected Donors Category
The College responded Feb. 17 to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General solicitation on safe harbor provisions under the Federal anti-kickback statute, urging the agency to adopt measures that would further prevent abusive business practices, fragmented care, duplicate testing, and a reduction in care coordination.
CAP’s recommendations call for exclusion of abusive business practices when the intent of the donor is to obtain referrals and the exclusion of laboratories within the category of protected donors.
“Many laboratories indicate that electronic access to records is actually less effective than it was before the adoption of the EHR safe harbor,” said David Henkes, MD, FCAP, a member of the Council on Government and Professional Affairs, “and the potential for abuse and over-utilization is extremely high due to perverse incentives. Because of this, OIG needs to remove laboratories from the category of protected donors in the safe harbor.”
CAP also recommended that the agency modify the safe harbor by prohibiting a donor from tying the donation of software that qualifies under the safe harbor to the acceptance of non-qualifying technology, even if the additional technology is accepted at the recipient’s cost.
The “safe harbor” provisions were created in August 2006 for Electronic Health Record items and services to encourage the adoption of EHR technology to help improve quality of patient care without protecting arrangements that hinder marketplace competition, serve as marketing platforms, or are mechanisms to influence clinical decision-making inappropriately.
The College supports moving toward an interoperable, nationwide health information technology infrastructure and looks forward to continuing to work with OIG, HHS and Congress to improve patient care.
Scholarship Applications Now Available for CAP’s 2009
Scholarship applications are now available for 2009 Advocacy School, which will be held May 4 - May 6 in Washington, DC.
With several legislative issues affecting the future of pathology expected to be acted on, such as cuts to Medicare physician payments and the adoption of Health Information Technology, this is the time to become politically involved.
“At advocacy school, pathologists receive education to understand how legislators are influenced, by their constituents. This grassroots advocacy is the most powerful force in the legislative process,” said Richard Gomez, MD, FCAP, chair of the Federal and State Affairs Committee. “As health care reform is addressed by the current administration and Congress, it is extremely important for pathologists to engage with their members of Congress so they know who we are and the importance of our legislative agenda and issues.”
Advocacy School provides members an outstanding opportunity to receive in-depth political advocacy training, learn about the College’s key issues and the legislative process, hear from Congressional guest speakers and meet with lawmakers and their staff.
Last year, Advocacy School graduates met with more than 100 House and Senate offices to continue the College’s extensive campaign on Cytology PT, and other legislative issues. This year promises to bring critical new pathology issues before Congress. Your attendance at Advocacy School ensures our voices will be heard.
You may download the application from the CAP Web site (PDF, 81 K) (Word, 152 K). If you would like to attend the CAP Advocacy School this spring and have any further questions, please contact Susan Askew by e-mail or at 202-354-7105.
CAP members hosted two lab tours recently, giving their Congressional representatives the opportunity to see first hand the role of pathology in patient care and discuss key issues like CAP’s position on Cytology PT, Health Information Technology and healthcare reform:
- Andrew Fischer, MD, FCAP, hosted Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) for a lab tour of UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, MA, Feb. 18.
- Michael Beckmann, MD, FCAP and Chad Defrain, MD, hosted Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL) for a Jan. 31 tour of Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, IL.
The National Academies Institute of Medicine released a report Feb. 18 proposing the creation of a new government entity, the National Institute of Forensic Science, to establish and enforce standards within the forensics community.
The report calls for upgrading of systems and organizational structures, training, widespread adoption of uniform and enforceable practices, and mandatory certification and accreditation programs.
For more information on the report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, visit the National Academies Web site.
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