By Joseph Goedert

The economic stimulus bill as passed by the House contains no major changes in its health IT and privacy provisions from when the bill was introduced.

That's the word from Justin Barnes, vice president of marketing and government affairs at Greenway Medical Technologies Inc., a Carrollton, Georgia-based physician software provider. He also serves as chair of the HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association, a trade group for vendors.

The legislation, H.R. 1, authorizes $20 billion in funding - including grants, loans and Medicare/Medicaid payment incentives - to accelerate the use of certified health information systems.

A Senate version of the stimulus bill has very similar health IT and privacy/security provisions as the House bill, Barnes said. The Senate bill, however, would authorize $5 billion to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology; the House bill authorizes $2 billion. Both provisions, which are part of the $20 billion authorized for health IT, are intended to "jump start" federal funding.

Because of policy changes, however, the House and Senate bills could result in $17.7 billion in Medicare incentive payments and $12.4 billion in Medicaid incentive payments during the next 10 years. That brings the potential net value of health IT funding to about $32 billion in the House bill and $35 billion in the current version of the Senate bill.

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