Kerry bill would expand Meaningful Use incentives to safety net clinics

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced a bill to Congress late last week to encourage safety net clinics to adopt electronic health records by extending the Meaningful Use incentive program to those providers.

The "Medicaid Information Technology to Enhance Community Health" or MITECH Act, would expand eligibility for Meaningful Use incentives to providers that practice predominantly in a qualified safety net clinic (QSNC).

"Given that Medicaid eligibility levels are so low in many states, it is difficult for many safety net providers to meet the 30 percent Medicaid threshold required to participate in the Medicaid EHR incentive program even though their patients are predominately low-income," Kerry said, according to the Congressional Record. "Congress addressed this problem only for practitioners working in federally-qualified health centers and rural health centers by creating a 30 percent 'needy' threshold in ARRA for those providers. Unfortunately, ARRA fails to provide a similar standard for other providers serving low-income individuals."

The bill has been endorsed by 13 organizations thus far, including the National Association of Public Hospitals, the HIV Medicine Association and Mental Health America. It has been referred to the Committee on Finance.

The Meaningful Use incentive program has been expanded previously to cover providers not originally contemplated by the HITECH Act, which created the program. For example, Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use program expanded the program to 12 children's hospitals that didn't originally qualify. Other bills that would expand the program to additional provider groups still are pending.

To learn more:
- here's the bill
- read the Congressional Record