House Republicans are stalling on a bill that would fund national health IT projects, citing a Congressional Budget Office estimate that the bill would end up "increasing direct spending and decreasing revenue." The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Johnson (D-CT) and Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) was approved by the House Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee last week. The bill would make the role of National Health IT Coordinator official and enact changes to U.S. law to make it easier for healthcare providers to buy IT systems.
The CBO estimate concludes that the legislation's inclusion of a "Safe Harbor" provision that would allow hospitals to donate computer equipment and software to affiliated clinics, physicians and other healthcare facilities would drive Medicare and Medicaid spending up. This is a profound shift from earlier arguments that health IT will help improve the efficiency of care. Instead, the CBO predicts, increased availability of information technology may increase utilization, driving costs up.