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The biggest barrier to electronic prescribing has been the expense of buying and setting up the necessary equipment and software -- an estimated $3,000 per prescribing doctor. So Congress agreed to pay doctors slightly more over the next five years when they use such systems. They would get an extra 2 percent in their reimbursement rates when treating Medicare patients during 2009 and 2010, 1 percent more in 2011 and 2012, and 0.5 percent more in the final year.
"It is fairly costly for a small practice to begin the changeover to e-prescribings, so the incentives in this particular bill will help," said Dr. James King, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Congress also put in place financial penalties for those physicians who decline to use electronic prescribing, dropping their Medicare reimbursements by 1 percent in 2012, 1.5 percent in 2013 and 2 percent in 2014. Some exceptions will be allowed for hardship cases.
Leavitt said Medicare officials will hold a conference in the fall to help doctors work through some of the technical issues involved in setting up electronic prescribing.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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