States are poised to lead the charge for many of the health initiatives outlined by the new economic stimulus plan. Late last week, INN reported that health care IT is expected to benefit greatly from the stimulus plan passed by the House, but a new Government Technology story expounds upon that, saying that many states already have legislation underway to advance this goal.

According to the story, states have embraced health care IT as a way to reduce medical errors, improve health care quality and streamline health care.

"This economic recovery plan not only makes health information technology a priority for all states with its incentives to improve quality and contain costs, but it also creates much-needed jobs in this emerging sector of health care," says Sen. Richard Moore, VP of National Conference of State Legislatures and a principal architect of Massachusetts' health care reform effort. "Should it pass as currently written, states would receive funds to offer low-interest loans to finance implementation of health IT as well as money to distribute grants to regional health information exchanges that will enable better coordination of care."

Four health IT priorities were highlighted in a preliminary summary of the House version of the stimulus package:

•    Invest $20 billion in health information technology infrastructure, including Medicaid and Medicare incentives and state grants to encourage providers to use health IT

•    Develop standards that allow for the nationwide electronic exchange of health information

•    Generate savings through improvements in quality, care coordination and reductions in medical errors

•    Strengthen privacy and security laws assuring that state laws are retained

So far, a handful of states already have a jump on the federal government. Vermont previously developed a dedicated funding stream, through a fee on all health care claims, to help fund the adoption of electronic health records by small providers. In addition, Minnesota, Nevada and Rhode Island have updated their health data privacy laws to allow for electronic exchange of health information.

In addition, both Minnesota and Massachusetts, according to the story, enacted requirements for hospitals and health care providers to have interoperable electronic health records by 2015.

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