Senate passes Medicare, SCHIP bill, but misses I.T. mandate

WASHINGTON Despite the lack of a White House-requested I.T. mandate, President Bush has said that he will sign Senate bill 2499, reauthorizing Medicare, Medicade and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Among the provisions of the bill is replacement of a scheduled 10% cut in physician Medicare payments with a 0.5% increase. What the bill is missing, however, according to Health and Human Services secretary Micahel Leavitt, is a mandate for doctors to start using electronic health information technology. HHS had sent a letter to congressional leaders earlier in the month that suggested a conditional Medicare fee based on the adoption of I.T. “Physicians who do not adopt appropriate, available technology should receive a lower payment than those who do,” Leavitt told lawmakers.

The bill also reauthorizes the SCHIP, which has been a point of contention between Congress and the president in 2007, as Pres. Bush vetoed twice bills that would have increased the spending for the program. In the end, Congress sent the bill with no increase in funding.

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