Bill Would Open Meaningful Use to Behavioral Health

Legislation has been introduced in Congress that seeks to extend eligibility for the “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program to providers that treat for behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse.

The Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2012 (H.R. 6043)  was introduced at the end of June by Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Tim Ryan (D-OH). This bi-partisan bill follows a similar bill introduced by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in March 2011, the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011 (S. 539).

The proposed legislation would amend the definition of the term “eligible professional” in the meaningful use program to include behavioral or mental health professionals, substance abuse professionals, psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, residential mental health treatment facilities, outpatient mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities. Clinical psychologists and licensed social workers would also be included.

While both the House and Senate bills seek to extend eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid health IT implementation assistance, the Senate bill also extends eligibility for assistance from the health IT regional extension centers to specified behavioral health providers.

The only current option for behavioral health providers hoping to qualify for meaningful use incentives is to work through currently covered physicians and nurse practitioners that are affiliated with their facility, according to a Health Data Management article.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has recognized the benefits of supporting the adoption of health IT in behavioral health, noting this as an important next step within the Federal Health Information Technology Strategic Plan for 2011-2015.

To track progress and news updates on the legislation, follow H.R. 6043 (112th Congress) and S. 539 (111th Congress) via the Library of Congress’s legislative information Web site at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php or http://www.opencongress.org/.

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