WASHINGTON – While lawmakers in Washington continue to duke it out over the federal budget, many experts are saying the $27 billion allotted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to reward providers for healthcare IT adoption should be secure, mainly because healthcare IT has bipartisan support.
Some Republicans, however, have targeted health IT for budget cuts. On Jan. 24, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) introduced The Spending Reduction Act of 2011, which would reduce federal spending by $2.5 trillion. Language in the bill indicates Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive funding would be eliminated under the cuts should the bill be introduced by the Democrat-majority Senate, pass both houses and escape a veto by President Barack Obama.
Dave Roberts, vice president of government relations for the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, said he is more worried about the tone this sets and the confusion it creates than the likelihood that such a bill would pass.
"We've heard from some CIOs asking us, ‘What is this? We hear the House is going to rescind our money.' It adds to the confusion in the whole marketplace,” Roberts said. “And providers and hospitals who want to purchase this (technology) are wondering, 'Do I really want to start down this path?'”
"We're trying to tell people that this process is going on,” he said. “This is only one body (of Congress). Don't let this be a concern."
Dan Berger, in the Redspin Security Blog, said he believes the stimulus funding for healthcare IT "will proceed as planned with full funding." He said the funding is safe for now because HITECH was passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act rather than Obama’s healthcare reform initiative, and it had broad bi-partisan support. In addition, he said, the goal of HITECH is to create jobs and increase the efficiency and competitiveness of the U.S. healthcare system.
According to Vincent L. Frakes, federal policy director for the Center for Health Transformation, "no one is really clear" on what will happen to the EHR incentives until the FY2012 budget is resolved. As of the beginning of March, Congress was operating on a gap funding bill it passed on March 2 to keep the federal government open for two more weeks as it works out those details.