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Bill Allowing Behavioral Health EHR Incentives Passes Senate

The Senate passed a bi-partisan bill that would let CMS offer incentives for behavioral health EHRs, aiming to improve care quality for patients.

cms behavioral health ehr incentive program

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- The bi-partisan Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (S.1732) was passed by the Senate earlier today, allowing CMS to offer incentives to providers that implement behavioral health EHRs.

Introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the bill states that providers eligible for such incentives would include psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, and “hospitals, treatment facilities, and mental health or substance use disorder providers that participate in a State plan under title XIX or a waiver of such plan.”

S.1732 will offer funds to providers not included in the EHR Incentive Program, and will improve “the coordination and quality of care for Americans with mental health, addiction, and other behavioral health care needs,” Whitehouse said in a statement.

“Electronic records help doctors and other providers make better decisions about their patients’ care. Americans who receive substance abuse and mental health treatment should benefit from that technology, too,” he stated. “This bill would test the use of electronic health records by mental health providers to care for patients who too often are left behind. I’m proud that our bipartisan bill has passed the Senate.”

The federal government has distributed $38 billion in incentive payments since 2011 to encourage providers to adopt EHRs, but many behavioral health facilities did not qualify for that funding.

Butler Hospital President and COO Mary Marran explained that it is important to remove barriers and “ensure parity in the use of technology for those dealing with issues around behavioral health, predominantly in the treatment of inpatients.”

“It’s critical that we have the ability to communicate issues easily and effectively, particularly with primary care providers, and this bill goes a long way towards leveling the playing field and making sure those suffering from mental health issues are not treated differently than anyone else,” she continued.

Congresswomen Lynn Jenkins and Doris Matsui have introduced companion legislation as well in the house, which is where the Senate bill will now move forward to. 

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