HIT funding: What would Romney do?

Mitt Romney
Analysis

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is no stranger to health information technology advocacy. As governor of Massachusetts, he helped spur initiatives such as the $50 million nonprofit Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, for instance, and he signed a 2003 bill meant to enable Bay State providers to more widely adopt e-prescribing.

However, some experts say Romney’s Republican platform, promoting limited federal government and increased fiscal autonomy to the states could very well put federally funded health IT initiatives at risk.

Ed Daniels, consultant for health IT firm Point-of-Care Partners, wrote that, when it comes to health IT, “Romney is likely to be more of a cheerleader than a funder.”

He surmised that if Romney were elected, eventually, “Government incentive payments for EHR adoption likely will be dropped from future budgets.”

Romney has repeatedly and unabashedly stated that if he were elected, his first act in office would be to eliminate the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

[See also: Paul Ryan's Congressional health IT timeline]

During the third presidential debate Oct. 22, Romney, when speaking of balancing the budget, said, “[The] number one I get rid of is Obamacare. There are a number of things that sound good but, frankly, we just can't afford them. And that one doesn't sound good, and it's not affordable, so I get rid of that one from day one.”

But the ACA, of course, has many defenders.

After the Supreme Court’s landmark June 28 decision to uphold the law, Dave Roberts, vice president of government relations at HIMSS, said, “Consumers are going to be demanding ways to access their health information, and this will just be the tip of iceberg on the innovations we’re going to see, now that this issue has been decided.”

The ACA contains provisions to “improve the quality of healthcare by increasing quality data collected by health IT, creating new programs that involve health IT, and giving payments to existing entities for the use and improvement of health IT." It also has provisions related to setting new operating rules and standards that will directly or indirectly control the use and innovation of health IT and increasing the size of the health IT workforce across different sectors.

Romney has also established himself as a fierce opponent of Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. That position may appeal to the GOP’s core constituents, but even some opponents of ARRA as a whole have conceded that Obama got some things right.

“I can report that there is one part of the president’s stimulus plan that is working. Really working,” wrote business and technology columnist Gene Marks in a July Forbes piece. The part of the law Marks supports happens to be the some $20 billion allocated for health IT adoption. "Slowly but surely,” he wrote, “It’s working.”

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