CMS Proposes E-Prescribing Standards For Medicare

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E-Prescribing Standards For Medicare

CMS will proposeelectronic prescribing standards for Medicare beneficiaries, promptingadvocates for organizations that provide and manage drug benefits tocall for an "e-prescribing" requirement for the program, CQ HealthBeat reports. The standards, to be published soon in the Federal Register,aim to increase the use of handheld and other e-prescribing devicesthat allow physicians to check beneficiaries' medication history,prescription drug coverage and formularies.

The standards would be added to another set that took effect in January 2006. HHSin a release announcing the proposal said that e-prescribing couldreduce some 530,000 "adverse events" that occur annually in Medicareand that the practice will save money by alerting physicians tolower-cost generic versions of drugs. In addition, HHS officials saidadoption of e-prescribing will pave the way for other healthinformation technology.

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Medicare does not mandate thatphysicians use e-prescribing; only that providers of the drug benefitmust support e-prescribing and abide by the standards. The BlueCross and BlueShield Association and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Associationon Wednesday issued statements saying that CMS should makee-prescribing mandatory for Medicare. BCBS President Scott Serota said,"Seniors and disabled beneficiaries deserve to be protected fromavoidable medication errors -- and the solution starts with requiringe-prescribing in Medicare."

Acting CMS Administrator KerryWeems said that he does not support an e-prescribing mandate, adding,"I'm not yet to the point where we're going to use the payment systemto coerce it." Weems in September said that e-prescribing technology isnot at a point where a mandate makes sense. However, he said thatdeveloping standards for e-prescribing is "one of the key action itemsin the federal government's effort to build a nationwide, interoperableelectronic health information infrastructure" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 11/15).

Opinion Piece

While lawmakers "continue to debate how to cover the uninsured, improvequality and lower costs, there is too little being done to modernizehealth care," Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Newt Gingrich (R), formerspeaker of the House and founder of the Center for Health Transformation, write in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

Theycontinue, "E-prescribing for Medicare is just the beginning of themodernization and digitization our ailing health care system urgentlyneeds," adding, "A high-tech, healthier future is within our grasp."According to Kerry and Gingrich, the U.S. has "talked long enough aboutusing technology to cut costs and improve the quality of care. Now isthe time to act," concluding, "We just need creative leadership boldenough to reach for it" (Kerry/Gingrich, Wall Street Journal, 11/16).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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