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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - December 05, 2007)

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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, seven thousand Americans die every year because of preventable adverse drug events. Tens of thousands of more are injured. Meanwhile, of the three billion prescriptions that are written each year, doctors report that nearly one billion of them required a followup for clarity, costing our health care system billions of dollars a year. That is why I am pleased to join my colleagues Senator Ensign, Senator Stabenow and Senator Martinez to introduce critical legislation to help bring our health care system into the 21st century through electronic prescribing, e-prescribing, of medications in the Medicare program.

The benefits of e-prescribing are clear and compelling. When a doctor ``writes'' an electronic prescription, a computer or handheld device warns of potentially dangerous interactions or allergies or informs a physician whether a particular drug is covered by a patient's insurance. It also tells the physician whether a chemically identical generic alternative is available at a fraction of the price. The path to a more modern, accountable health care system starts with health information technology. The path to robust health information technology starts with e-prescribing.

This legislation would provide permanent funding for physician payment bonuses in Medicare to help offset the costs of acquiring e-prescribing systems and to incentivize the use of the technology. The bill would also require all physicians in Medicare to use e-prescribing starting in 2011--1 year later than the Institute of Medicine recommended in their recent study. We have talked long enough about using technology to stem perpetually rising health care costs and poor quality, and our legislation takes an important step to do something about it.

I want to give particular credit to Mark Merritt and his team at Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, PCMA, for their hard work and leadership. PCMA is responsible for a seminal study in this field, which showed for the first time that broader adoption of e-prescribing will not only save lives, but will also save billions of dollars for patients, payers and taxpayers alike. Perhaps most importantly, PCMA created a strong and diverse coalition of health care stakeholders to advocate for this legislation, including business, labor, consumer advocates, physicians, health plans, pharmacists, and drug manufacturers. The PCMA-led coalition has worked diligently on Capitol Hill in support of this important issue. They have educated Congress on e-prescribing and are helping to make sure that we get the policy right.

The Medicare E-MEDS Act gets it right. The standards and interoperability for e-prescribing are in place; the technology is affordable; and, most importantly, the dramatic benefits for patients and health care purchasers--especially the Federal Government--are overwhelmingly clear. This bill is a solid step towards addressing these important issues in the delivery of our Nation's health care. It is time that Congress act to save lives and increase efficiency in America's health care system.

Mr. President, I ask for unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

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