The Senate joined the House on Friday evening, February 13, 2009, in passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which includes provisions relating to Health Information Technology. Title XIII of Division A and Title IV of Division B together are known as the “Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act” or the “HITECH Act.” We will be highlighting attributes of the HITECH Act through the end of February. Contrary to the political blather, this legislation is a significant step forward in providing funding and incentives to accelerate adoption of standardized and interoperable electronic business and clinical technologies in healthcare and in strengthening privacy safeguards for patients’ protected health information. The federal government will develop standards for HITECH, and the new HITECH law states that: ‘[T]he standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria recommended under this subsection shall be consistent with the standards for information transactions and data elements adopted pursuant to section 1173 of the Social Security Act[Standards to Enable Electronic Exchange].” [Section 3003(b)(1)(D)Consistency, Congressional Record—House, February 12, 2009, p.H1340] The referenced standards include the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards.
It is important to note that when President Obama signs the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the clock starts running toward 2011, when incentives for Medicare providers, amongst others, begin. It is important to note that House and Senate conferees increased the potential incentive payment for meaningful Medicare users of qualified electronic health records in 2011 and 2012 from $15,000 to $18,000, and terminated incentives for first users after 2014. The year 2011 is the first year that Baby Boomers begin to qualify for Medicare, and 2014 is the end of the “Decade of Health Information Technology” that was proclaimed by the Bush Administration in 2004.