July 26, 2006—The House of Representatives will consider HR 4157 on Thursday, which would endorse the use of electronic medical records and includes a provision on pricing transparency designed to make the market more hospitable to health savings accounts.

Two versions of the bill were approved by the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees in June; the two were subsequently combined by panel chairmen to create the current edition, which includes a provision from the Ways and Means Committee to increase billing codes from 24,000 to over 200,000 by 2011. The language regarding pricing transparency, however, was added at the last minute.

Health savings accounts, which are supported by the president, will not succeed if consumers can’t comparison shop, according to proponents of pricing transparency. The provision is unpopular with hospitals, however.

House representatives who see the bill as insubstantially funded—Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Phil Gingrey (R-Ga) and others—offered solutions such as regional implementation initiatives and using tax breaks instead of grants to encourage widespread adoption.

A Rand Corporation study published last fall estimated that only 15 percent of physicians and 20 percent of hospitals use computers to manage records.

—Cat Vasko