July 10, 2006
The Honorable Patrick Kennedy
407 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Congressman Kennedy:
Consumers Union, the independent, non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, strongly endorses your amendment to HR 4157 to establish meaningful, public support for the more rapid implementation of regional or local health information technology plans.
We are disappointed that the health information technology (HIT) bills reported by the House Committees basically weaken the nation’s anti-fraud laws as a way to fund the faster and wider use of HIT. Other nations have financed HIT development and implementation through public financing, and the United States should take the same approach rather than weakening the anti-kickback and anti-referral laws. HIT has the potential to improve quality and efficiency and save money in the long-run. It is an investment in the future of health care. It should not be funded by gimmicks or shoddy shortcuts.
Your bill provides a traditional competitive matching grant program based on need and the quality of the proposal. It would provide resources to those who need help in implementing inter-operable HIT and who will provide quality care in return. The grants are conditioned on providers adopting strong privacy and security policies to protect sensitive medical records while empowering consumers to control their own medical data.
Your amendment will provide straightforward, focused help to those who need it, rather than relying on the random impact of weakened anti-fraud laws. We urge the House of Representatives to adopt your amendment.
Senior Policy Analyst