By Joseph Goedert

The compromise reached in the U.S. Senate the evening of February 6 on the economic stimulus bill retains most of the funding that was originally proposed for health information technology initiatives. The Senate expects to vote on the revised stimulus bill Tuesday, February 10.

The compromise retains the original Senate bill's nearly $20 billion to fund Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for the use of IT, according to a Senate document that lists spending changes. The House version of the stimulus bill passed earlier also includes substantial funding for the incentives.

Also included in the Senate compromise is $3 billion in "jump start" funds allocated to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The original Senate bill allocated $5 billion to ONC; the bill approved earlier by the House included $2 billion.

The funds for ONC would permit the office to rapidly disseminate grants and loans - as early as later this year - to increase IT adoption in community health centers and in community hospitals and physician practices, particularly those in rural areas.

Other IT-related changes in the stimulus bill, under the Senate compromise, include:

  • Agriculture Department distance learning and telemedicine loans: $20 million, compared with $20 million in the original Senate Bill and $0 in the House bill;
  • Agriculture Department distance learning and telemedicine grants: $80 million, compared with $180 million in the original Senate bill and $0 in the House bill;
  • Agriculture Department broadband grants: $0, compared with $0 in the original Senate bill and $2.825 billion in the House bill;
  • Department of Commerce's Advanced Broadband Program: $6.65 billion, compared with $8.65 billion in the original Senate bill and $2.825 billion in the House bill;
  • Federal Communications Commission broadband grants: $0, compared with $0 in the original Senate bill and $3.325 billion in the House bill;
  • AHRQ comparative effectiveness research: $1.1 billion in all three versions;
  • Indian Health Service health IT: $85 million, compared with $85 million in the original Senate bill and $0 in the House bill;
  • FEMA interoperable communications: $6 million, compared with $6 million in the original Senate bill and $0 in the House bill; and
  • Tactical law enforcement wireless communications: $100 million, compared with $200 million in the original Senate bill and $0 in the House bill.

For a copy of the Senate document, from the offices of compromise leaders Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), click here.

This article was originally published on HealthDataManagement.com.

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