Capps, Rockefeller Introduce Bill to Level the Playing Field for Safety Net Providers Working with Vulnerable Populations

Jul 11, 2013 Issues: Healthcare

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24) introduced the Medicaid Information Technology to Enhance Community Health (MITECH Act), which would increase access to Electronic Health Records (EHR) for safety net providers. Senator Jay Rockefeller introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The MITECH Act would allow health care professionals who provide care to our nation’s most vulnerable individuals to be eligible for an electronic health records incentive program. Even though many safety net providers are poised to implement electronic health records, it is an expensive and lengthy process. By expanding the same eligibility requirements available to Federally Qualified Health Centers for existing incentives to community safety net providers, this bill promotes the adoption and implementation of electronic health records among all of our nation’s safety net providers. Removing barriers to EHR would strengthen the health care delivery system, leading to better health care outcomes and increased efficiencies and communication among health care providers to better patient care.

It is critical that we support health care providers working with our nation’s most vulnerable populations, no matter what setting they practice in,” Capps said. “This bill would even the playing field and encourage providers to implement electronic health records, increasing efficiencies and improving the health system so that we can continue to provide high-quality care to all Americans.”

“We can’t get serious about improving care and reducing costs for our most vulnerable populations without leveraging the full promise of electronic health records,” said Senator Rockefeller. “We’re moving this bill today so providers serving so many of these families in rural West Virginia communities – which are often the only opportunity for care within miles – can access this transformative technology that will change the way they care for their patients.”

“Having EHRs will eliminate the need for duplication of lots of laboratory work up as well as maximize productivity,” said Dr. Ahmad Nooristani, Founder and Executive Director of the SLO Noor Foundation Free Clinic. “More importantly, it will be beneficial for patients when they are transferred to the hospital or other providers because the same records could be accessed easily.”

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) created financial incentives called “meaningful use” incentives for both Medicare and Medicaid providers to implement and support EHRs. While the current program has helped hundreds of thousands of providers, practices, and hospitals nationwide establish and use EHRs, many safety net providers and clinics have not been able to benefit from the incentives.

Community clinics face differing thresholds to qualify for the incentives based on their status, resulting in a lack of uptake by some community clinics. The MITECH Act would shore up a technological divide that exists currently amongst health care providers by applying the same rules that apply to Federally Qualified Health Centers and Rural Health Centers to providers serving the same population of low-income individuals in other non-profit or public clinics. This would ensure that all safety net clinics serving similar populations are eligible for EHR incentive payments.