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Kerry, Ensign Introduce E-Prescribing Bill to Modernize Medicine and Save Lives

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Kerry, Ensign Introduce E-Prescribing Bill to Modernize Medicine and Save Lives

Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.) led a bipartisan group of legislators today to introduce a bill that would expedite the adoption of electronic prescribing technology in every doctor's office in America. Prescribing electronically instead of by-hand has been proven to save lives and cut costs on a massive scale.

As a result of prescription errors, American hospital patients are hit with 1.5 million injuries each year, according to the Institute of Medicine. Medication errors will kill at least 7,000 Americans in 2007. Of the more than three billion prescriptions written each year, doctors report nearly one billion require a follow-up between providers and pharmacies for clarification. The health-care system costs are in the billions.

Kerry's bill would foster the adoption of e-prescribing by providing permanent Medicare funding for payment bonuses to physicians who acquire e-prescribing technology. In addition, for every Medicare prescription a doctor writes electronically, they will be paid an extra 1% bonus. Starting in 2011, Medicare physicians who are not electronically prescribing would face financial penalties.

The bill is being sponsored by Senators Kerry and Ensign along with Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Mel Martinez (R-FL) in the Senate, and Representatives Allyson Schwartz (D-Penn.) and Jon Porter (R-Nev.) in the House.

"E-prescribing will save money, save time, save doctors from piles of paperwork, and most importantly, save lives," said Sen. Kerry. "Deaths and injuries from hand-written prescriptions could be nearly eliminated if e-prescriptions were adopted on a wide scale. We need to seize this bi-partisan opportunity and make this common sense reform a reality now."

"With this bill, we're helping to bring our healthcare system into the 21st Century in a way that will result in fewer mistakes and lower costs," said Sen. Ensign. "Doctors and medical professionals should utilize the best of today's technology to improve patient safety and advance our quality of health care. E-prescribing is an easy solution that will save lives, time and money."

"Study after study shows that e-prescribing saves dollars and more importantly saves lives," said Sen. Stabenow. "This legislation provides doctors with the tools they need to implement this readily available technology. Michigan businesses, doctors and pharmacies have been at the forefront of implementing e-prescribing and I am proud that Michigan's success will serve as a model for national success."

"This will put us on the track to reducing medical errors, lowering health care costs, and improving the overall quality of patient care," said Sen. Martinez. "E-prescribing opens the door to other bold initiatives including more widespread use of electronic health records for every American."

"E-prescribing is a common sense, much needed solution to help eliminate preventable prescription errors and make medicine in America the safest it can be," said Rep. Schwartz. "Congress has a responsibility to be forward-thinking, as well as practical, in how we encourage greater use of technology in healthcare and this bill is a key step forward in the right direction."

"E-prescribing is a necessary and constructive step to move our health care system into the 21st Century," said Rep. Porter. "With the adoption of e-prescribing technology many lives will be saved, fewer errors will occur and the quality of patients' care will drastically improve."

Specifically, the bill would:

1. Provide permanent Medicare funding for one-time grants to physicians to help offset the start-up costs to physicians of acquiring and implementing e-prescribing technology.

2. Provide permanent Medicare funding for payment bonuses to physicians for use of e-prescribing. For every Medicare prescription that is written electronically, physicians will be paid an extra 1% bonus.

3. Starting on Jan 1, 2011, physicians will be required to write their Medicare outpatient prescriptions electronically. Physicians that continue to write prescriptions by hand will face a per-claim financial penalty.

4. The Secretary of HHS will be given authority to grant one- or two-year hardship waivers for physicians who face particular difficulties in acquiring and implementing e-prescribing - especially those from rural areas or very small (or solo) practices

5. GAO and CMS will be directed to report within two years on the status of e-prescribing adoption within Medicar

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