Last Thursday, Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) introduced the HITECH Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010 HR 5025, a bill that would allow behavioral, mental health and substance abuse treatment providers to qualify for incentive payments for the “meaningful use” of electronic health records.
The act would extend the 2009 HITECH provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to include behavioral and mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health clinics and substance abuse treatment facilities.
Under ARRA, hospitals and care providers who can demonstrate “meaningful use” of EHRs qualify for incentive payments through the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). However, two letters from Congress have been sent in the past month to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and to acting CMS Administrator Charlene Frizzera criticizing the definition of “meaningful use,” saying that the criteria were too “all-or-nothing” and left out many care providers.
The bill does not, however, modify the criteria for meaningful use criticized by members of the Senate in the past month, as the application of the criteria is an administrative action rather than a legislative one. It does expand eligibility for CMS incentive payments for psychologists, addiction specialists, psychiatric hospitals, mental health clinics and substance abuse treatment facilities.