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Psychologist and Social Worker Alert – Please Click Embedded Link to Contact Your State Reps about Obtaining Up to $66k in Incentives for EHRs

IncentiveTake action NOW to ask your legislators to cosponsor legislation making psychologists and social workers eligible for health information technology (HIT) incentive payment Click here to see what psychologists are being asked to sign to urge Senators and Representative to cosponsor the BHIT bill.

If you are not able to reach the Legislative Action Center from the above link, please visit http://capwiz.com/apapractice/issues/alert/?alertid=61539541. If possible, please take action by Friday, July 20.

Grassroots feedback is also extremely important to our advocacy efforts, so we would very much appreciate it if you would e-mail (jcook@apa.org) or fax (202-336-5797) us any substantive responses you receive from your Representative or Senators.

What Is the Latest on This Issue?

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both chambers to make psychologists eligible under the HITECH Act for integrating electronic health records into their practices and would also apply to other mental and behavioral health providers and facilities. The Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (S 539 / HR 6043) was recently introduced in the House by Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) on June 27 and previously introduced in the Senate by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Earlier this year, psychology leaders from across the country gathered in Washington and attended more than 300 meetings with members of Congress, pressing to end the exclusion of mental health from the nation’s developing health information technology infrastructure. Psychologist eligibility under the HITECH Act is necessary to promote integration of mental health in primary care settings, reduce adverse drug to drug interactions, reduce duplicative tests and provide necessary information to the emergency department at hospitals to triage patients more effectively. Please make your voice heard.

Additional Background:

Make Psychologists & Social Workers Eligible for HITECH Act Incentives.

Congress should make psychologists eligible for existing HITECH Act incentive payments by passing the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011 (S. 539 and H.R. 6043) . It is sponsored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA).

The legislation would amend the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (“HITECH”) Act of 2009 to support mental and behavioral health by enabling psychologists and social workers to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for integrating electronic health records into their practices. It would also extend this eligibility to nationally accredited community mental health centers, residential mental health facilities, outpatient mental health treatment facilities and substance use facilities.

The inclusion of mental and behavioral health providers and treatment facilities will increase the likelihood that Medicare and Medicaid patients will receive effective, high-quality care from well-trained and licensed mental and behavioral health professionals in a setting designed to meet their specific and unique needs. More specifically, the inclusion of psychology will generate savings for Medicare and Medicaid. Recognizing mental health professionals as eligible “meaningful users” under the law will promote integration of psychology and mental health in primary care settings, reduce adverse drug to drug interactions, reduce duplicative tests, and provide necessary information to the emergency department at hospitals to triage patients more effectively.

Background: The HITECH Act significantly expanded the U.S. government’s efforts to establish a national electronic health records (EHRs) system. Such a system would enable authorized health care professionals and hospitals to, among other things, access centralized information such as lab test results and medication lists to provide safer and more efficient patient care. The Act includes significant protections for mental health record confidentiality.

The Act authorizes the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide a reimbursement incentive for physician and hospital providers who are successful in becoming “meaningful users” of electronic health record (EHRs). These incentive payments began in January 2011, and will gradually phase down by 2016. Starting in 2015, providers are expected to be actively utilizing EHRs in compliance with the meaningful use definition or they will be subject to financial penalties under Medicare.

Unfortunately, the Act excluded psychologists and most other non-physician providers from receiving Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments and grant funds to adopt EHRs. The Act defines eligible professionals as medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic, dentists, dental surgeons, podiatrists, optometrists and chiropractors. Though incentives are offered in the early years, failure to meet the meaningful use requirements within four years will result in penalties against eligible professionals. The Final Rule for the Act went into effect July 28, 2010.

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