The U.S. Senate passed its version of the economic stimulus bill yesterday on a 61-37 vote.

The legislation now will move to a joint House-Senate conference committee to resolve differences in the chambers' bills. In health care, this includes different funding levels to accelerate adoption of health information technology, as well as different language in the I.T. policy and health information privacy provisions.

The Senate bill would authorize nearly $20 billion to fund Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for the use of health information technology systems. It also includes $3 billion in "jump start" funds to the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology to rapidly disseminate grants and loans to increase I.T. adoption. These funds primarily would target community health centers, and community hospitals and physician practices, particularly those in rural areas.

The original Senate bill allocated $5 billion to ONC; the bill approved earlier by the House included $2 billion.

The funds for ONC would permit the office to rapidly disseminate grants and loans—as early as later this year—to increase I.T. adoption in community health centers and in community hospitals and physician practices, particularly those in rural areas.

Other I.T.-related changes in the stimulus bill, under the Senate compromise, include:

* Agriculture Department distance learning and telemedicine loans: $20 million, compared with $20 million in the original Senate Bill and $0 in the House bill;

* Agriculture Department distance learning and telemedicine grants: $80 million, compared with $180 million in the original Senate bill and $0 in the House bill;

* Agriculture Department broadband grants: $0, compared with $0 in the original Senate bill and $2.825 billion in the House bill;

* Department of Commerce's Advanced Broadband Program: $6.65 billion, compared with $8.65 billion in the original Senate bill and $2.825 billion in the House bill;

* Federal Communications Commission broadband grants: $0, compared with $0 in the original Senate bill and $3.325 billion in the House bill;

* AHRQ comparative effectiveness research: $1.1 billion in all three versions;

* Indian Health Service health I.T.: $85 million, compared with $85 million in the original Senate bill and $0 in the House bill;

* FEMA interoperable communications: $6 million, compared with $6 million in the original Senate bill and $0 in the House bill; and

* Tactical law enforcement wireless communications: $100 million, compared with $200 million in the original Senate bill and $0 in the House bill.

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