Will HITECH Act EHR Incentives Be Cut?

HITECH Act and the Super Committee

On August 2, the enactment of the Budget Control Act of 2011 created unprecedented legislation to conclude the debt ceiling crisis. The Act creates a joint committee of twelve members which has equal political party, Representatives, and Senators and is being called the Super Committee. The committee is charged with architecting a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction bill by November 23 and must be brought to a vote by December 23. The committee will then be dissolved. The bill will be designed to significantly reduce the deficit over the next ten years. It will also be guaranteed an up or down vote in both the House and Senate. If the committee fails to produce a a bill with $1.2 trillion of debt reduction, an across-the-board cutting plan would be triggered. These cuts would apply to both mandatory and discretionary spending from 2013 to 2021.

So how will this effect the funding of the HITECH Act and the CMS EHR Incentive programs? HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) the leading health IT organization released a paper, “Super Committee” on the Deficit and Potential Implications for Health IT, last week which is well worth the read. The paper outlines their analysis of the debt reductions and EHR adoption initiatives. HIMSS points out the long time bipartisan support of the EHR initiatives going back to President GW Bush and his selection of the first ONC Daivid Brailer. And further quoting Dr. Brailer, now Chairman of Health Evolution Partners, as saying, “The digital health record program has bipartisan support and would be low on the list of cuts. However, everything is on the table in the future, but electronic health record funding has been seen by both sides as an essential investment to lower long-run health care costs.”

And as HIMSS so correctly points out, we cannot predict the committee’s outcome because everything is truly “on the table”. We might just see no agreement obtained and the overall cuts triggered. HIMSS has developed a Congressional Request for the HIMSS 2011 Policy Summit and for other Capitol Hill meetings which states: “In order to transform our nation’s healthcare system to one that provides predictably high quality care, protects patient safety and removes unnecessary costs, Congress should preserve the investment being made in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records Meaningful Use Incentive Program. Health information technology is an essential tool that is critical to the transformational process.” You can register to attend the HIMSS 2011 Policy Summit in Washington DC on September 14 and 15.