The "Acts" and Health IT...

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ARRA was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009. ARRA includes many measures to modernize our nation's infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, provide tax relief, and preserve/improve affordable health care.

ARRA includes the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health HITECH act which established programs under Medicare and Medicaid to provide "incentive payments" for the "meaningful use" (MU) of certified Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology.

One important aspect of HITECH is that it now legislatively mandates the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology ONC which was created in 2004 and operates under the Department of Health and Human Services HHS. Kathleen Sebelius is currently Secretary of HHS. The ONC, currently led by Dr. David Blumenthal, is charged with modernizing our nation's Health Information Technology HIT capability. To do so, ONC created two committees that have developed the policies and standards needed to bring about implementation of "certified" EHR systems. These two committees are the HIT Policy Committee and the HIT Standards Committee respectively. Note that "certified" has a very significant meaning in terms of an EHR meeting the MU criteria.

In addition to ONC, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services CMS, which is an agency of HHS, has a role in three areas of the HITECH Act:

1. Implementation of the EHR Incentive Programs:

Under the HITECH Act, the Medicare EHR incentive program provides incentive payments to eligible professionals, hospitals, and critical access hospitals (CAHs) that are meaningful users of certified EHRs. Incentive payments will be made to qualifying Medicare Advantage (MA) organizations for the meaningful use of certified EHR technology by their affiliated eligible professionals.

The Medicaid EHR incentive program provides incentive payments to eligible professionals and hospitals for efforts to adopt, implement or upgrade certified EHR technology, or for meaningful use in the first year and for meaningful use for up to another five years.

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