Senators Encourage President-elect to Include Health IT in Economic Recovery

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) today announced the introduction of the Health Information Technology Act of 2009 (S. 179) that would provide a much-needed investment to modernize and improve the country’s health care infrastructure. Also today, Stabenow and Snowe sent a letter to President-elect Obama, encouraging him to use the Act as a blueprint for addressing health care issues in the upcoming economic recovery package. The Act would provide critical investments into health care technology that will improve quality of care, improve efficiency and reduce costs. Senators Stabenow and Snowe are co-chairs of the Senate Health Care Quality Improvement and Information Technology Caucus.

“Modernizing our health care system is a critical step in ensuring all Americans have access to quality, affordable care,” said Stabenow. “As health care costs continue to soar and devastate middle-class families that are already hurting, this legislation can reduce costs, while improving care. It is truly a win-win, and should be included in any economic recovery package.”

“With the majority of our nation’s health records largely stuck in the archaic pen and paper era, it is clear we can no longer afford either the high cost in lives or the excessive spending that such inefficiency creates,” said Snowe. “Our legislation provides federal leadership in adoption of health technology which will not only help reduce costs for our beneficiaries over long term, but lays the groundwork for critically-needed health care reform.”

The Health Information Technology Act would establish a grant program for eligible health care providers to help cover the costs related to clinical health care informatics systems and services designed to improve quality in health care and patient safety, including costs for the purchase, lease, or installation of computer software and hardware. Grants are targeted toward providers which are most in need of assistance: safety-net providers that see a high percentage of Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program beneficiaries and rural providers.

The Senators also sent a letter to Senate leadership and President-elect Barack Obama urging a substantial investment in information technology. Full text of the letter to President-elect Barack Obama follows:

January 9, 2009

The Honorable Barack Obama
President-Elect
Washington, DC 20270

Dear President-Elect Obama:

As the co-chairs of the Senate Health Care Quality Improvement and Information Technology Caucus, we congratulate you on your election as the 44th President of the United States and applaud your call for a substantial investment in our nation’s health information technology (IT) infrastructure as part of an economic stimulus package. We strongly support such an investment and offer our commitment to work with you in a bipartisan fashion to reform our healthcare system.

As we undertake health care reform, health IT is key to improving the accessibility, cost, and quality of care, while empowering consumers in their healthcare decisions and ensuring the privacy and security of personal health information. The long-overdue adoption of modern information technology systems will be transformative in improving health, and will foster economic development which otherwise cannot occur. Investment in adoption is crucial in order to maintain and extend our leadership in biomedical innovation, and ensuring job growth in this sector.

Many initiatives are underway among the private and public sectors to foster the widespread adoption of health IT throughout the nation. These are leveraging publicly funded health programs to support the use of health IT and increase collaboration among healthcare and information technology stakeholders. Without an IT infrastructure, many promising health reform proposals will have difficulty reaching their full potential.

Our legislation, the Health Information Technology Act (S.1408), could serve as a blueprint for how to best manage a federal investment in health IT. S.1408 establishes a grant program for eligible health care entities to offset costs related to clinical health care informatics systems and services designed to improve quality in health care and patient safety, including costs for the purchase, lease, or installation of computer software and hardware. Grants are targeted toward providers which are most in need of assistance: safety-net providers that see a high percentage of Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program beneficiaries and rural providers. Additionally, our legislation allows doctors and other providers to expense the costs of investing in a health IT system.

As we begin the 111th Congress, we look forward to work with you to enacting meaningful healthcare policy to address escalating healthcare costs that are hurting our economy and to reduce disparities in access to healthcare services.

Sincerely,
______________________ ______________________
Debbie Stabenow                     Olympia Snowe