How will Democratic victory affect HIT?

November 24, 2006

According to some observers, the Democratic sweep of the midterm elections has made it unlikely that the lame-duck Congress will resolve the differences between the incongruent health IT bills passed by the House and the Senate before the end of the year (Government Health IT, Nov. 14). That doesn?t mean that HHS? new rule changes allowing hospitals to donate health IT to physicians will be overturned. But as noted in our last bulletin, many hospitals are awaiting an IRS decision on whether such donations would endanger nonprofits? tax exemptions.

According to some observers, the Democratic sweep of the midterm elections has made it unlikely that the lame-duck Congress will resolve the differences between the incongruent health IT bills passed by the House and the Senate before the end of the year (Government Health IT, Nov. 14). That doesn't mean that HHS' new rule changes allowing hospitals to donate health IT to physicians will be overturned. But as noted in our last bulletin, many hospitals are awaiting an IRS decision on whether such donations would endanger nonprofits' tax exemptions.

A more lasting effect of the Democratic victory will be to place new people in charge of key committees and the health-care agenda. Sens. Edward Kennedy and Jay Rockefeller and Reps. Pete Stark and Henry Waxman are among the folks to watch. Kennedy has called for federal grants to support physician EHR adoption—something that the Bush Administration and the formerly Republican-dominated Congress have studiously avoided.

Meanwhile, the move toward interoperable EHRs—which the Administration strongly favors—has run into another snag. The federally sponsored Healthcare IT Standards Panel submitted its first recommendations to HHS' American Health Information Community last month. Included were standards for lab result delivery that are supposed to be included in next year's EHR certification criteria. But the Departments of Defense and Veterans' Affairs want to review and test the standards before they implement them, and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt hasn't set a timetable for rolling them out.

According to some observers, the Democratic sweep of the midterm elections has made it unlikely that the lame-duck Congress will resolve the differences between the incongruent health IT bills passed by the House and the Senate before the end of the year (Government Health IT, Nov. 14). That doesn't mean that HHS' new rule changes allowing hospitals to donate health IT to physicians will be overturned. But as noted in our last bulletin, many hospitals are awaiting an IRS decision on whether such donations would endanger nonprofits' tax exemptions.

A more lasting effect of the Democratic victory will be to place new people in charge of key committees and the health-care agenda. Sens. Edward Kennedy and Jay Rockefeller and Reps. Pete Stark and Henry Waxman are among the folks to watch. Kennedy has called for federal grants to support physician EHR adoption—something that the Bush Administration and the formerly Republican-dominated Congress have studiously avoided.

Meanwhile, the move toward interoperable EHRs—which the Administration strongly favors—has run into another snag. The federally sponsored Healthcare IT Standards Panel submitted its first recommendations to HHS' American Health Information Community last month. Included were standards for lab result delivery that are supposed to be included in next year's EHR certification criteria. But the Departments of Defense and Veterans' Affairs want to review and test the standards before they implement them, and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt hasn't set a timetable for rolling them out.