Behavioral HIT Bill Clears Senate

Since 2011, the federal government has distributed $38 billion in incentive payments to healthcare providers to adopt EHRs. However, psychologists, community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, and others that specialize in treating addiction and mental health conditions do not qualify for this funding.

This has contributed to a substantial gap in the rates of adoption of health IT between providers that qualify for federal incentives and those providers that do not qualify such as behavioral health providers.

The Senate has passed the “Bipartisan Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act” to help behavioral healthcare providers such as psychologists and psychiatric hospitals adopt EHRs.

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the bill with cosponsors Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

The legislation would authorize the CDC to provide incentives to adopt electronic health technology to behavioral healthcare providers in order to improve the coordination and quality of care for Americans with mental health addiction, and other behavioral healthcare needs.

Whitehouse and Portman’s bill would authorize the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to implement a demonstration program that would provide incentive payments to behavioral healthcare providers to use for the adoption and use of EHRs.

The bill went to the House where Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) have introduced companion legislation.


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