Congress should forge ahead with efforts to pass a bill to create a national, interoperable health information system.

John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, Washington, delivered that message here recently at conference organized by the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation, Washington.

Castellani’s group, an association of America’s largest corporations, has been a major supporter of congressional efforts to set health information standards, to ease the efforts of doctors, hospitals and insurers to exchange patient medical and billing data electronically.

Completing work on a health information standards bill would bring the benefits of “our digital society to our health care delivery system,” Castellani said.

The savings could amount to $165 billion per year, or $2,200 per family, Castellani said.

Both Republicans and Democrats have supported the concept of setting health information standards, and President Bush included a call for national health data standards in his last State of the Union address.

Castellani noted that the United States spent an average of $4,900 per person on health care in 2005, compared with an average of $2,800 in Germany and less than $2,100 in Japan.

In addition to supporting modernization of health data communications, Congress should support legislation to promote flexible, consumer-focused health care products, “which offer a viable source of health coverage for millions of Americans, including many who were previously uninsured,” Castellani said

Castellani also said Congress should approve legislation to permit the release of 100% of the patient-protected information in the Medicare claims database.

“Increased availability of cost and quality information will lead to a system that is more focused on providing affordable, higher quality care, and the release of the Medicare claims data is an integral part of this goal,” Castellani said.