July 27, 2006—Late Wednesday night, members of the House of Representatives stripped the provision regarding hospital cost transparency from HR 4157, the electronic medical records bill up for consideration today. The move is expected to ease passage of the bill, which would encourage the adoption of computerized record systems and increase the number of codes used from 24,000 to over 200,000 by 2011.

Cost transparency is thought to be essential to developing a market hospitable to health savings accounts, which have many proponents, including the president. The provision, however, was added at the eleventh hour, and representatives complained that it was not included in either of the versions of the bill approved by the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees.

Six amendments will also be considered today, on issues such as availability of health care information for individuals with low literacy levels, benchmarks for cost-effectiveness of health information technology in underserved areas, inclusion of emergency contact information in modernized records, grants for underserved or isolated areas, clarification of the purpose behind coding changes, and demonstration of the impact of health information technology on care of chronically ill Medicaid patients.

The Senate version of the bill would authorize $600 million for implementation; the House version would only authorize $30 million.

—Cat Vasko