Medicare expands online health records programs

The Bush administration is not waiting on Congress to pass legislation that increases access to online personal health records. Beginning in January, the administration will expand access to online records in Arizona and Utah as part of an ongoing effort to encourage greater use of health information technology. The records will contain up to two years of information from Medicare’s records. Patients will be able to add to their records and share them with physicians, pharmacists and other healthcare providers. Congress’s efforts to pass legislation promoting health IT have been stymied so far but the Bush administration has been moving ahead with its own efforts related to Medicare. The administration rolled out a similar program in South Carolina for traditional Medicare enrollees in April. In June 2007, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a personal health records pilot project for some beneficiaries enrolled in private Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. CMS also said in May it is preparing to move ahead with an electronic medical records pilot project in four geographic areas. (SOURCE: Jeffrey Young, The Hill , www.thehill.com, August 11, 2008 website review)