Congress passes stimulus package with $19B for healthcare IT

Congress passed the final version of the $787 billion economic stimulus bill Feb. 13, with $19 billion slated for healthcare IT. President Obama is slated to sign it today in Denver.

Richard UmbdenstockThe American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1), is also loaded with more than $100 billion for other healthcare measures including funding to help beef up state Medicaid coffers and subsidies to help unemployed workers afford healthcare coverage through COBRA.

American Hospital Association President and CEO Richard Umbdenstock said the bill "is a step in the right direction," and AHA looks forward to working with Congress and the Administration to further refine some of the provisions.

Umbdenstock said provisions in the bill contain key items that are important to the patients and communities served by the nation's hospitals, ranging from ensuring the availability of healthcare coverage for the unemployed and providing increased support for the Medicaid program to making a down-payment on investments to improve the quality and efficiency of care through health information technology; investing in the training of more healthcare professionals, and blocking several Medicare and Medicaid regulations proposed by the previous Administration that would have created barriers to serving our most vulnerable patient populations.

Carl Buising, MD, executive director of healthcare, U.S. Public Sector Health at Microsoft said the bill, with its emphasis on key healthcare IT priorities will improve information-sharing and availability, which will in turn drive quality, efficiency, and patient-centric services for the 21st Century.

"With substantial funding for adoption and expansion of health IT at the provider, facility, regional, and national levels, we can make real progress," Buising said. "It will be important in the execution to include sufficient flexibility in the decisions and deployments undertaken such that today's various data and information formats can all be managed, as well as the forthcoming standards to be developed."

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