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Senate Bill Would Fund Incentives for E-Health Records in Behavioral Health

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A new bill put forward in the U.S. Senate would allow mental health and substance abuse treatment providers to receive incentive funding from Medicare and Medicaid for using electronic health records, Health Imaging reported March 16.

The economic stimulus bill of 2009 previously made such incentive payments available to “health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health records,” according to iHealthBeat. The new bill, the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011 (S. 539), is sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and would expand eligibility for the incentive funding to licensed clinical psychologists and clinical social workers.

“Mental health care is a critical component of our health care safety net, and allowing these providers access to cost-saving, quality-enhancing advances in health information technology will improve the care that millions of American receive,” Whitehouse said in a March 15 press release.

According to Sen. Whitehouse, the bill would:

  • Expand the types of providers eligible for Medicare and Medicaid incentives for the use of electronic health records to include licensed psychologists and clinical social workers;
  • Expand Medicare hospital incentive funding eligibility to include inpatient psychiatric hospitals;
  • Expand Medicaid hospital meaningful use incentive funding eligibility to include community mental health centers, mental health treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals and substance abuse treatment facilities; and
  • Clarify eligibility of community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, behavioral and mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities for technical assistance from regional extension enters.

“By expanding the use of electronic health records, my legislation will give mental health professionals access to comprehensive and up to date medical histories, enhancing the precision of diagnoses and reducing medication errors,” said Whitehouse.

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