Bill Would Add Mental Health To EHR Incentives

Licensed psychologists, clinical social workers, and behavioral health facilities would have access to federal electronic health record stimulus funding under the proposed Senate legislation.
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A bill has been introduced to expand the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record (EHR) incentive programs to include mental health workers and facilities. The legislation, introduced Tuesday by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), would give them access to incentive payments as they adopt EHRs.

The Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011 (S. 539) seeks to ensure that health IT is available to behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities.

According to Sen. Whitehouse, the investments in health IT under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act have made a positive impact on expanding the use of health IT at healthcare delivery organizations, but called for further efforts to give mental health professionals and facilities access to federal stimulus dollars as they invest in health IT.

"Mental health care is a critical component of our healthcare safety net, and allowing these providers access to cost-saving, quality-enhancing advances in health information technology will improve the care that millions of Americans receive," Sen. Whitehouse said in a statement. "By expanding the use of electronic health records, my legislation will give mental health professionals access to comprehensive and up-to-date medical histories, enhancing the precision of diagnoses and reducing medication errors."

The Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011 (S. 539) would:

-- Expand the types of providers eligible for Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentives to include licensed psychologists and clinical social workers;

-- Offer Medicare hospital incentive funding eligibility to inpatient psychiatric hospitals;

-- Increase Medicaid hospital meaningful use incentive funding eligibility to include community mental health centers, mental health treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals, and substance abuse treatment facilities; and

-- Clarify eligibility of community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities for technical assistance from Regional Health IT Extension Centers.

If enacted, licensed psychologists and clinical social workers, as well as mental health treatment facilities, will be able to apply for incentive payments under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs as they adopt, implement, upgrade, or demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHR technology.

Non-hospital-based physicians and other eligible professionals can obtain incentive payments as much as $44,000 under Medicare or $63,750 under Medicaid. Under both Medicare and Medicaid, eligible hospitals may receive millions of dollars for implementing and meaningfully using certified EHR technology.

Incentive payments for the adoption and meaningful use of certified EHR technology were authorized in the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009. High rates of adoption and meaningful use could result in as much as $27 billion in incentive payments over 10 years.

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