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Senate bill keeps funding ban in place for unique patient identifier

A Senate Appropriations Subcommittee last week released its draft Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill but the proposed legislation did not lift a 20-year ban on using federal funding for a unique patient identifier.

The Department of Health and Human Services has been prohibited from spending funds on a unique patient identifier due to a provision inserted into every budget passed by Congress since 1999.

However, in June, the House of Representatives adopted an amendment to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2020, that would eliminate the ban. Supporters of removing the prohibition were hoping the Senate would follow suit.

But, Senate appropriators did not include the required provisions in its Fiscal Year 2020 draft funding bill to allow HHS to spend federal funds on the adoption of a UPI.

“Senate appropriators’ initial rejection of the overwhelming, bipartisan will of the House of Representative on UPI funding is disappointing, but there is still time to change course,” said Joel White, executive director of the Health Innovation Alliance (formerly Health IT Now), a coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers and payers.

“This outdated ban has contributed to healthcare waste and misspending while threatening patient safety for far too long,” according to White. “With the UPI ban in place, studies show patients are accurately matched to their medical records as seldom as 50 percent of the time. That is a failing score that Washington must not accept.”

White added that the Health Innovation Alliance continues to urge the Senate to “follow the House's lead and tear down this senseless barrier to responsible, lifesaving patient matching solutions without delay.”

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