Bill expands MU incentives to behavioral health providers

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has introduced legislation to encourage behavioral health providers such as psychiatric hospitals, substance abuse facilities and psychologists to adopt electronic health records by extending the Meaningful Use incentive program to them.

The Behavioral Health Information Technology Coordination Act of 2013 (S. 1685), introduced in the Senate Nov. 12, would not only extend the Meaningful Use program to such providers, but also addresses the reporting of EHR-related adverse events to patient safety organizations, clarifies that EHRs are not devices subject to the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, limits electronic discovery in EHRs and increases legal protections for providers.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse introduced similar legislation (S. 1751) in September, calling for an extension of the program to behavioral health providers, but his bill is less comprehensive.

Portman's bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance. It is virtually the same as House bill 2957, introduced by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and others in August.

Congress previously tweaked the Meaningful Use program to address participation gaps by adding rural health centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers to the program.

These bills are not the only ones introduced this Congressional session to modify the Meaningful Use program. For instance, a bill introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R. Tenn.) in March would create two new exceptions for eligible professionals, soften other requirements and establish a formal appeals process that providers could utilize before penalties are imposed. And Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and others introduced a bill in July that would extend the Meaningful Use incentive program to safety net providers; a companion bill also was introduced in the House of Representatives.

To learn more:
- read Portman's legislation
- here's the House bill