Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., reintroduced legislation on Feb. 3 that would work to improve information sharing between health IT systems to aid in the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines.

The senators initially introduced the legislation, titled the Patient Matching Improvement Act of 2021, in the last Congress, but it did not become law, leaving Hassan and Cassidy to reintroduce it for the 117th Congress.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is the worst public health crisis that our country has witnessed in generations, and we must take full advantage of any technology that is available to us in order to contain this virus and save lives,” Hassan said in a press release. “This bipartisan bill provides a simple solution to help improve the vaccination process, bolster contact tracing efforts, and more accurately track community spread.”

The bill would help match patient files across health providers by having the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) collaborate with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to make the USPS address formatting system available to health care organizations to enable them to change their records into the new format. The bill would also make the USPS address system available to labs doing COVID-19 testing.

“By giving the Postal Service’s existing address tools to health care providers, we can also help improve care for patients beyond the pandemic. I am glad to partner across the aisle with Senator Cassidy once again to improve our country’s health care system, and I look forward to working with him to get this bill across the finish line,” Hassan said.

The act also directs the Secretary of HHS to create an interim rule to standardize the use of the USPS addressing system. They would then have 120 days to report back to the Senate Committees on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and on Oversight and Reform.

“Identifying and containing COVID-19 before it spreads within a community is possible with existing technology. This bill provides an important tool to more quickly isolate the virus and save lives,” Cassidy said in the same release.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.