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Statement of Michael B. Enzi

Senate Budget Committee Hearing

Health Information Technology:

The Federal Role and Budget Implications

July 20, 2005

Mr. Chairman, Thank you for holding this hearing today. I also would like to thank Secretary Leavitt for his testimony on this very important topic of health information technology (Health IT). This hearing is very timely in that no other single issue can help improve the efficiency and quality of health care to patients than the ability of having every single hospital, doctor’s office, service provider, and other health care links working from the same electronic page.

The Secretary and I have been discussing Health IT since before his confirmation. We both share the same vision of ensuring that all patients have the ability to benefit from one set of Health IT standards or one set of train tracks—as the Secretary likes to put it.

As you know, just this morning the HELP Committee marked-up S. 1418, the Wired for Health Care Quality Act. This bipartisan Health IT legislation will increase the future quality and efficiency of health care. Given the topic of the hearing today on budget implications, I believe that an investment in health IT now will decrease healthcare costs over the long-term.

As my colleagues know, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores all Committee-reported bills, and I have asked CBO for a cost estimate as soon as possible. I also have directed my staff to avoid touching the mandatory side of the budget and to draft a discretionary authorization into the legislation that does not increase direct spending.

Secretary Leavitt, I share your concerns and those of Chairman Gregg about spending wisely on Health IT. From my perspective, federal support for private-sector technology adoption should be limited to filling in financing gaps. For instance, hospitals in rural areas have access to fewer financing sources than other health care service providers. In addition, local financial institutions may be reluctant to lend to rural hospitals and service providers as they are very different than your typical commercial business.

Our legislation attempts to target federal monies to help those who need the help the most in updating and advancing Health IT, especially those in rural areas. This small amount of money for rural areas will pay big dividends in the future on improving health care for rural patients.

In January of this year, shortly after I became the Chairman of the HELP Committee, I publicly expressed my commitment to work with Committee members to draft and report out of Committee Health IT legislation. We did just that this morning.

One of the key components of the legislation we reported out of Committee this morning creates an express authorization of appropriations for federal health IT initiatives.

For the last two years, HHS has supported its health IT initiatives without specific lines of authorization. Our Committee felt it was critical to give HHS specific authorization but also provide the Secretary with maximum flexibility to determine what works and to allocate that money accordingly. Secretary Leavitt, I believe this new authorization will help you do your job.

I am very optimistic that this bipartisan legislation reported from the HELP Committee this morning will clear the Senate prior to the August recess. I invite Secretary Leavitt to join me in this effort, support this bipartisan bill and help get this legislation quickly signed into law.

Mr. Chairman, thank you again for holding this hearing to illustrate the need for advancing Health IT. I believe that the bill we moved through the Committee will take a great stride forward in accomplishing that goal.

I look forward to hearing Secretary Leavitt’s testimony today.