Date: January 23, 2009
House Ways and Means Reports Out Favorably H.R. 598, to provide for a portion of the Economic Recovery Package Relating to Revenue Measures, Unemployment, and Health
On January 22, 2009, H.R. 598, to provide for a portion of the economic recovery package relating to revenue measures, unemployment, and health, was reported out of the House Ways and Means Committee by a party-line vote of 24 to 13. This bill, as reported, includes one-time payments to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries and a number of provisions relating to Health Information Technology (HIT).
The legislation is expected to be combined with other components of the economic recovery package from other House Committees into H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for consideration by the full House of Representatives.
As reported by the Committee, H.R. 598 includes the following provisions of interest to SSA.
One-Time Emergency Payment to SSI Recipients
• Would direct the Commissioner, within 120 days of enactment, to make a one-time stimulus payment to SSI recipients who had been eligible for a cash payment in the month of enactment or in either of the two preceding months. Recipients not receiving an SSI cash payment in the month of enactment would be eligible only if nonpayment status was due solely to exceeding the applicable income limit.
• Would allow for payments to be made to individuals who are retroactively found eligible for SSI during the specified months, but no payments would be made beyond calendar year 2009. In addition, no payments would be made to recipients who reside in Medicaid-funded treatment facilities.
• Would provide that individual SSI recipients would receive an amount based upon the average current SSI payment for individuals, while couples would receive the average aggregate amount paid to couples.
• Would authorize that the one-time payments could be withheld to recover prior SSI overpayments, but they would not be used to offset any underpayment due to an SSI recipient.
• Would provide that the payment shall not be taken into account as income or taken into account for resources for the month of receipt and the following 6 months, for purposes of determining the eligibility for Federal benefits or federally funded State or local assistance.
• Would provide appropriations as may be necessary to carry out the SSI stimulus payment provisions.
Promotion of Health Information Technology
• Would establish:
• The Office of the National Coordinator for HIT in the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) and a Chief Privacy Officer in the Office of the National Coordinator;
• An HIT Policy Committee to make policy recommendations to the National Coordinator;
• An HIT Standards Committee to make recommendations to the National Coordinator on the standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria for the electronic exchange of information; and,
• Requirements for application and use by Federal agencies of the standards and implementation specifications adopted by the National Coordinator.
• Would appropriate $250,000,000 to the National Coordinator to do all of the aforementioned.
• Would establish that the HIT Federal partners listed in the Executive Order issued August 22, 2006, must use adopted standards and implementation specifications when spending on HIT. (NOTE: SSA is not listed as a Federal partner in this Executive Order.)
• Would establish that the August 22, 2006, Executive Order agencies must require that private entities use Federal standards and implementation specifications when contracting/entering into agreements.
• Would authorize HHS to use resources to assist healthcare providers with adopting, implementing, and effectively using electronic health record technology. HHS would establish an HIT Research Center and regional extension centers to assist in doing this.
Other Amendment of Interest
• An amendment that would have allowed individuals the option to opt-out of Medicare Part A was rejected by voice vote.
1 Approximately $460 and $640, respectively, based on November 2008 payments.