OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Senate committee on Monday effectively killed a bill supported by grass-roots conservative groups that would have abolished a program to electronically link medical records in Oklahoma.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 4-4 for the bill by freshman Sen. Nathan Dahm. A tie vote means the bill fails to pass.
Dahm, a self-described Constitutional conservative, said he introduced the bill at the request of several conservative grass-roots organizations and expressed his concern that the Oklahoma Health Information Exchange Trust was a state vehicle to incur more federal debt by receiving grant money.
"This isn't the only thing that I'm working on," Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, said after the bill's defeat. "Everything I'm working on, I'm trying to get back to the free market, trying to get the government out of our affairs, whether it's federal or state."
Dr. Robert Roswell, the trust's chairman and senior associate dean at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, said the trust is a state-based beneficiary that helps physicians and hospitals that have acquired an electronic health record to be able to share information and communicate with other physicians.
"Electronic health records are already here and they're here to stay," Roswell told the panel. "I'm sorry, that's the way it is."
Roswell said the creation of a trust was specifically designed to limit the role the federal government plays in the establishment of the information exchange. He said about $12 million has been spent to help set up the system in Oklahoma, much of it to rural health providers.
"The OHIET trust is specifically structured and governed in a way that allows the local, Oklahoma-owned and operated practices to share information," he said. "That's the way we want it."
But Amanda Teegarden, the director of OK-SAFE, a Tulsa-based grass-roots group dedicated to "defending Oklahoma's sovereignty," voiced concern over the expense of the system and the potential for the security of those health records to be breached.
"It got created on the backs of the people, through tax dollars," Teegarden said.
All three Democrats on the committee voted against the bill, along with Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie.
Senate Bill 219: http://bit.ly/Y5ucoH
Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy