America’s Health Insurance Plans is asking Congress to take a hard look at a bill that is supposed to encourage doctors, hospitals and other providers to make better use of information technology.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted 270-148 Thursday to approve H.R. 4157, a health information technology bill introduced by Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn.

The Senate passed a health information technology bill of its own in November 2005, and Senate Majority Leader William Frist, R-Tenn., a medical doctor, says he hopes a House-Senate conference committee will move quickly to reconcile differences between the 2 bills.

The bill was amended heavily while it was on the House floor.

Staffers at trade groups, consumer groups and elsewhere are poring over the version of the bill reported by the House to determine what provisions remain.

Advocates of the bill say it could help insurers increase the efficiency of their health insurance claim processing operations and lower overhead costs throughout the U.S. health care system, by encouraging health care organizations to use standard electronic formats to store patient data and communicate with other players in the health care system.

Karen Ignagni, president of AHIP, Washington, says Congress should take care to make sure the details in the final version of the bill do not make matters worse.

If the final version bill is badly written, “the bill could impede the goal of creating a world-class national health information network by providing incentives for the creation of incompatible IT systems that would leave patients’ records stranded with different doctors and hospitals,” Ignagni warns.

In addition to talking about compatibility concerns, AHIP is talking about H.R. 4157 provisions relating to the adoption of a major new set of diagnostic codes, ICD-10.

The current version of H.R. 4157 would require the U.S. health care system to adopt ICD-10 by 2009.

The shift would affect health care providers every time they billed patients, and it would require changes in computer systems, according to government researchers.

AHIP wants Congress to push ICD-10 implementation date back to 2012, from 2009, and it says the country first must adopt and implement a major new set of electronic transaction standards, the ANSI X12 5010 standards, before it can implement ICD-10.

Links to the bill text and other information about H.R. 4157 are on the Web at Document Link