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Dingell, Barton release draft measure promoting heath IT

Following recent ups and downs on health information technology legislation, House Energy and Commerce leaders on both sides of the aisle released a draft bill late Thursday meant to accelerate the adoption of electronic medical records.

Comment on this article in The Forum.The draft, proposed by Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell and ranking member Joe Barton, pulls together language from several bills and resembles a measure introduced by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy and ranking member Michael Enzi. The Energy and Commerce Committee plans to hold hearings on the draft, a spokeswoman said today.

The bill by Kennedy and Enzi had been held up after it passed out of committee in October by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, who cited privacy concerns. Leahy and HELP Committee leadership reached an agreement last week on the privacy provisions, but Kennedy's recent absence for health reasons has left supporters wondering about the fate of the legislation.

Similar to the Senate version, Dingell and Barton's draft, which is co-sponsored by Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and ranking member Nathan Deal, R-Ga., codifies the office of a health information technology coordinator, directs HHS to adopt standards for the electronic exchange of information and creates grant programs to facilitate physician adoption of health information technology. Their draft includes some of the privacy protections agreed upon with Leahy, including a breach of information notification requirement and a provision to close a loophole in current privacy law that allows physicians to use patient information for marketing purposes.

CBO this week issued a somewhat discouraging report warning that digitized health care will not produce the massive savings originally assumed. CBO did not produce its own savings figure, but discredited a widely cited RAND Corp. study that estimated $77 billion in savings annually. The analysis cautions that health information technology, such as electronic prescribing and computerized medical records, is an important component but not enough to produce such savings.

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