Legislation expands Meaningful Use incentives to safety net clinics

Four Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation to encourage qualified 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 (MITECH) Act (S1286) was introduced in the Senate July 11 by Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va., pictured), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Al Franken (D-Minn.). Rep. Lois Capps (D- Calif.) has introduced a companion bill (HR2676) in the House.

According to the lawmakers' combined announcement, often "Medicaid eligibility levels for adults are so low that thousands of people can't afford healthcare, but they also don't qualify for Medicaid. This makes it difficult for many of these clinics to meet the 30 percent Medicaid patient threshold required to participate in the Medicaid electronic health records incentive program."

The lawmakers also noted that Congress has tweaked the program previously to address participation gaps by adding rural health centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers to the program; the MITECH Act would close another gap.

The House bill has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce; the Senate bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance.

This is not the first time that the MITECH Act has been introduced in Congress. Former Sen. John Kerry had introduced the bill in September 2012. It died at the end of the session.

It's also not the first bill introduced this Congressional session to modify the Meaningful Use program. 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.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- here's the House bill
- read the Senate bill