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Behavioral health providers lobby Congress for meaningful use inclusion

While some lobbyists and healthcare associations such as the American Medical Association are using meaningful use rollouts, schedules, criteria and incentive program administration as a political battering ram this summer, behavioral health providers are knocking on the door of the federal EHR incentive program and asking to be included in the Medicare and Medicaid sides.

In various reports from sources as diverse as Politico and the McKeesport (Pennsylvania) TribLive website, two Senate bills and three House bills were introduced in 2013 to bring these providers into the meaningful use fold. The Behavioral Health IT Coalition, backed by the American Psychological Association has been fighting for that cause for four years, and sent some of its representatives to Capitol Hill to renew their arguments for inclusion in a briefing before Senate staffers.

Not only do bills such as H.R. 2957 (since rolled into H.R. 3717) include behavioral health providers in the “carrot” of meaningful use, but also may subject them to the “stick” of Medicare penalties for not implementing ONC Certified EHR technology.

Providers made their case not only by pointing out the technology gap between behavioral health and the less resource-strapped acute and ambulatory providers, but also by enumerating the ways behavioral patients typically require better care coordination. Not only do they typically have other health conditions such as diabetes and asthma, the providers said, but — because of their diagnoses — can have trouble keeping up with medication adherence.

EHRs would help bridge the gap between such patients’ providers and help improve outcomes for the patients and cut costs from bad outcomes brought on from the lack of data systems on the behavioral health side, they added.

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