Bill Would Allow Mental Health Providers To Get MU Incentives

Posted on November 25, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Right now, mental health providers aren’t eligible to get Meaningful Use incentive payments — but a new bill would make that possible.  U.S. Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, has filed legislation that would add mental health providers to HITECH, making them eligible for payments if they meet Meaningful Use standards, according to a story in Healthcare IT News.

The bill, the Behavioral Health Information Technology Coordination Act, is intended to “fix an oversight in the system,” said Portman in a press statement announcing its filing. “”[By] making IT the bedrock to fully integrated care, my bill will enhance care and treatment for the mentally ill and put them on a path to lead healthy and productive lives.”

The announcement drew praise from a mental health trade organization in Portman’s home state. The CEO of the Ohio Council of Behavioral & Family Health Services Providers, Hubert Wirtz. “Adequate investment in healthcare information technology is critical to enabling mental health and addiction providers to implement systems that help them improve care coordination, provide quality care, measure outcomes and enable continuity of care between primary care, mental health and addiction services,” reports HIN.

However, it seems that Portman’s bill may not reach a vote, as it now sits in a congressional committee, the HIN story notes.

Regardless, though, Portman’s proposal is a good one. Good mental health outcomes, which the right EMR can enhance, can do much to address the health of a population, empowering consumers to take better care of their physical health.  What’s more, encouraging behavioral health providers to have a mental health EMR in place can share their findings smoothly with care managers (ideally PCPs) who can do their part to provide integrated care. All told, this seems like an idea whose time has come.