Montana Senators Reverse Position, Vote to Accept EHR Funds

Lora Bentley
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The good news is that primary focus now seems to be squarely on improving the overall quality of health care and the reduction of human errors.

This week the only state to have turned down federal incentive money for electronic health records systems reversed its position. Senators in Montana voted 45-5 to allow the Department of Public Health and Human Services to accept the $35 million set aside for the state's hospitals and community health centers, according to InformationWeek.


Why the turnaround? After legislators voted four times to reject the incentive funds, Gov. Brian Schweitzer joined health care lobbyists in their efforts to convince the lawmakers that not accepting the incentives would actually increase the cost of health care in the state, and lower its quality, too. In a statement, he said:

If Montana rejects the money, it will be distributed to other states, and Montana providers would be left holding the bag, requiring them to use their own funds for the technology or be left behind.

What's more, by rejecting the funds, the legislators were denying the state approximately 500 jobs that are tied to the funds.


Unfortunately, because the legislators delayed approval for so long, it's uncertain whether all of the $35 million intended for Montana will still be available, the story says.


Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, Congress set aside nearly $22 billion in economic stimulus money specifically to "advance the use of health information technology." Part of those funds are to be distributed to health care organizations that implement, and can demonstrate meaningful use of, certified electronic medical records systems.

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