Bill for Behavioral Health EHR Incentives Advances to US House

Bill for Behavioral Health EHR Incentives Advances to US House

Providers that treat mental health or substance use disorders would be eligible for financial incentives to implement behavioral health electronic health record systems under new legislation proposed in the US House of Representatives.

Introduced by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rob Portman (R-OH), S. 1732—or the Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act—would apply to psychologists, community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, and other behavioral health facilities.

The bi-partisan legislation seeks to “amend title XI of the Social Security Act to promote testing of incentive payments for behavioral health providers for adoption and use of certified electronic health record technology.”

The goal is to bring the benefit of incentives to those providers not originally included in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS’) “meaningful use” EHR Incentive Program. Proponents of the bill say expanded use of EHRs by behavioral health providers would improve care coordination and quality for the patients of providers previously unable to take advantage of technology incentives. “Electronic records help doctors and other providers make better decisions about their patients’ care. Americans who receive substance abuse and mental health treatment should benefit from that technology, too,” said Whitehouse in a statement. “This bill would test the use of electronic health records by mental health providers to care for patients who too often are left behind.” Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) are cosponsors on the bill.

The US Senate passed the legislation on May 9, and the bill now moves to the House of Representatives. Congresswomen Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) have introduced companion legislation. As of May 9, S. 1732 has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Ways and Means in the House of Representatives.


Sarah Sheber is assistant editor/web editor at Journal of AHIMA.