Advantage: Dems

Health IT remains a bipartisan issue, but with Democrats now in charge on Capitol Hill, the rush for national health IT legislation is on.

In the past year, lawmakers have struggled in their efforts to pass health information technology legislation. The Senate and House each passed a bill that they sent to conference committee by early fall, but the prospects for creating a framework for a National Health Information Network died without ever being presented for a full vote in either chamber.

“We all worked so hard, so we were extremely disappointed that Congress threw away all the progress that had been made over the past two years — when there was real opportunity to pass a good bill,” said David Merritt, a project director at the Center for Health Transformation, a health policy think tank that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich founded. “It’s not like this was Social Security or Medicare reform. This was a bipartisan issue.”

Now it’s the Democrats’ turn, and the new majority party appears to be committed to tackling health care. Health IT advocates are optimistic the new leadership will make health IT a priority, build on the progress of the past two years and create a better, more comprehensive legislative framework.

{The Democrats are committed to adding basic privacy rights to health IT this year, as they were last year during the hearings and votes on health IT legislation. In 2006, they tried to add a strong privacy amendment based on the principles the Coalition for Patient Privacy urged them to add to the legislation HR 4157, but the amendment was defeated by the then Republican majority. But the insurance, pharmaceutical, IT, hospital, and data aggregating industries will oppose privacy again this year. An involved public is the only force that can prevail against such powerful corporate interests. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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