Both Houses of Congress will be back to work tomorrow. Just about five weeks until the current two month tax extenders law, including the Medicare Part B doctor reimbursement patch, expires (February 29 -- Happy Leap Year)
The Wall Street Journal is offering opposing perspectives on various health policy issues. One of the issues is whether there should be a universal patient identifying number. When Congress enacted HIPAA, it required HHS to issue several identifying numbers -- including numbers for health plans, employers, doctors, and patients. HHS issued the uniform identifiers for employers and health care providers. But 15 years after HIPAA's enactment, HHS has not adopted a health plan identifier (although thanks to the private marketplace those identifiers are out there). In the late 1990s Congress due to privacy concerns barred HHS from using federal funds to adopt a uniform patient identifier. However, the federal government under the HITECH Act of 2009 is now hurling money at doctors so that they will adopt health information technology. The federal government also has plans for health information exchanges and an electronic patient information finding service so that my doctor would be able to find who else holds electronic health records on me. How can all of this work without an identifying number? This strikes the FEHBlog as a train that has left the station.
The Leapfrog Group for patient safety has posted report cards on the progress that major health insurers are making toward the Group's policy objectives.