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March 25, 2008

In the News

The Alliance to Save Energy announced for new board members last week:  Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council; Tom King, CEO of National Grid; Paul Tonko, CEO of NYS Energy Research & Development Authority, and Thomas Grumbly, vice president of energy and security services for Lockheed Martin. The Alliance to Save Energy undertakes research, educational programs, and policy advocacy, designs and implements energy-efficiency projects, promotes technology development and deployment, and builds public-private partnerships, in the U.S. and other countries.

US Chamber Health Information Technology Forum:  Getting Physicians to Go Electronic

Industry experts appearing at the U.S. Chamber’s health information technology conference said money and lives can be saved by moving from paper to electronic prescriptions and record keeping but that financial incentives may be needed to wean physicians from paper records. Paul Foley, vice president with health consulting firm Visante, Inc. noted that the federal government could save $26 billion over a 10 year period if all prescriptions were handled electronically, with even larger savings that would accrue to the private sector. Paul Speranza, chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors, added that privacy concerns pose another obstacle to converting from paper.

Foley advocated for financial incentives similar to those in legislation sponsored by Representatives Jon Porter (R-NV); Allyson Schwarz (D-PA); and Senator John Kerry (D-MA).   Congressman Porter touted his bill but urged private IT experts to lobby legislators to push the Congress noting that it could happen quickly and save lives.

Meanwhile, the Center for Democracy and Technology announced it is partnering with the Health Privacy Project to address privacy concerns associated with the electronic exchange of health information. The partnership will seek to resolve four major issues: role of patient consent, which secondary uses of data should be permitted, patient access to electronic information and proper enforcement of violations.

House Oversight & Government Reform Committee moves on Contractor Accountability Measures

Three bills aimed at increasing federal contractor accountability were passed out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week. The measures require creation of a database on federal contractor performance and misconduct; barring contractors with significant tax debts from receiving large government contracts and grants, and requiring companies that rely on federal contracts to disclose the names and salaries of their top officers.

New York Congressman Carolyn Maloney’s Federal Contractor Database bill would require the General Services Administration to create a list of completed criminal, civil and administrative proceedings involving federal contractors in the last five years. It would not change rules that govern how federal contract officers determine if contractors re reliable but is designed to give officers more information before awarding contracts.

The second measure barring contractors with tax debts from receiving federal contracts seeks to make permanent a provision in the FY 08 Omnibus Spending Bill and would require OMB to create a process to block companies that failed to file tax returns or were seriously delinquent on tax debts from receiving large contracts or grants. The size of contracts meeting the “large” threshold is not defined in the bill.

The third measure would mandate that companies that earn 80 percent of annual gross revenue and more than $5 million a year from government contracts publicly disclose to a federal contracting officer, the names and salaries of their senior officials.