Re:Health IT Bill--We Could Have Done Better

Yesterday, in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I opposed the Better Health Information Technology Promotion Act. My Republican friends have repeatedly said that this should not be a partisan issue and I entirely agree. I am sorry, however, that we were not able to work together and agree upon legislation that would bring our nation's health system into the 21st century. I am dismayed that we were not able to come together the same way our Senate colleagues were able to. As a result, I believe the legislation before us fell far short of the bill passed unanimously by the Senate, and will do little to advance the widespread adoption of Health Information Technology. The bill left a lot of room for improvement and is far from "superior", which is the word used to describe it in our Subcommittee markup last week. For one, this bill provides no funding to help providers implement health information technology.



Presently, only about 15 to 20 percent of physicians' offices have a HIT system. Most simply cannot afford to implement and maintain the technology, or train their personnel on how to use it. It is unrealistic to assume that hospitals would be able to fill this void either. They are often unable to afford HIT themselves, let alone dole it out to other providers.

This bill sets up a system of winners and losers where providers of insured and wealthy patients are first in line to receive the latest in HIT, while those who care for underserved populations fall to the bottom. A federal funding source can help level the playing field, without rolling back self-referral/anti-kickback safeguards that protect against fraud and abuse.

Similarly, in spite of recent revelations about the government's failure to protect sensitive personal information, this bill makes no attempt to strengthen federal privacy protections. As we move forward to advance the use of health information technology, and encourage the exchange of medical information, we also need to improve our nation's privacy laws to secure that information. This bill fails to meet that responsibility.

We could have and should have done better.