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Senator Reintroduces Behavioral Health IT Legislation

September 19, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has reintroduced legislation that would provide $20 billion in incentive funds for health information technology incentives for behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities.

A version of this measure was proposed in both the Senate and House, neither of which advanced past various subcommittees.

Senator Whitehouse says the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (S. 1517) would correct the inequity of the original legislation, which precluded those areas of healthcare. His act would expand the types of providers eligible for Medicare incentives for the use of electronic health records to include licensed psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and psychiatric hospitals.

It would also expand eligibility for Medicaid meaningful use incentive payments to include community mental health centers, mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals, licensed psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers. And it would allow EHR payments to eligible professionals and hospitals under Medicare Advantage plans.

“In the wake of this week’s tragic mass shooting in Washington, we are once again confronting questions about the treatment of mental illness in America,” Whitehouse said in a statement.  “Many questions remain about the shooting, but one thing is crystal clear: mental health is just as important as physical health.  This legislation will extend to mental and behavioral health professionals the same assistance given to other health providers, which will help them invest in vital health information technology.”

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