Some health care providers could be confused about whether they qualify for incentive funds from the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, but there’s no confusion about where behavioral health care providers stand: They don’t qualify.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) has introduced the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011, which seeks to extend the HITECH Act to include behavioral health care providers. The bill fits into the mental health care community’s larger agenda, which is to be integrated into the rest of health care, said Al Guida, a lobbyist for the behavioral health community. “If the rest of the health care system is wired for [health information technology] and the mental health field isn’t getting reimbursement for that technology, it will be impossible for us to communicate with the rest of the health care system,” he added.
Given the current economic climate, however, the proposed bill has a very low chance of passing, says Brian Darling, director of government studies at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation. Whitehouse’s arguments will focus on future savings, but the battle to bring behavioral health care providers into the HITECH Act will be a tough one.