House Republicans' introduction of legislation (H.R. 408) outlining $2.5 trillion in federal spending cuts is important because the bill lays a line in the sand of what rank-and-file GOP members want to do with congressional funding, says Don Asmonga, director of government relations at the American Health Information Management Association.

Targeted programs for elimination under the legislation include the electronic health records meaningful use incentive program and un-obligated funds authorized under the HITECH Act (see story and a follow-up). The bill would not repeal HITECH's provisions, confirms the Republican Study Committee, which developed the legislation.

It's too early to say if the legislation could pass the House, Asmonga says. For starters, he's not sure many of the bill's supporters would vote to pull funding for EHR incentive payment and HITECH programs. But even if passed, the bill wouldn't get past the Senate and President Obama.

Recommendations from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology that federal officials should be even more aggressive in pushing the industry toward EHR meaningful use also could carry weight with GOP members who have traditionally supported health I.T. initiatives, says Allison Viola, AHIMA's director of federal relations. Further, registration for incentive programs began this month and some Medicaid programs already have started cutting incentive checks.

What's important about H.R. 408, Asmonga contends, is that the industry could see pieces of the legislation resurface in other bills as the congressional session moves forward. "We have to be diligent and aware of what's going on. There will be efforts to cut funding and maybe someone out there will go after HITECH."

--Joseph Goedert


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