Economic Stimulus Package Should Include Health Care Investments

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The National Business Group on Health on Monday asked members of Congress and the transition team of President-elect Barack Obama for funds for comparative effectiveness research, health care information technology, and subsidies for COBRA in an economic stimulus package, CQ HealthBeat reports (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 1/12).

At a briefing on Monday, NBGH President Helen Darling said that the stimulus package should include $1 billion for comparative effectiveness research, which would help physicians to determine the most effective treatments for patients based on scientific evidence (Wangsness, "Political Intelligence," Boston Globe, 1/12). The Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality could oversee the research, Darling said. Darling also said that the stimulus package should include an investment in health care IT, despite the current lack of a broad set of interoperability standards. She said, "Health IT is an area where there are a lot of different ways to spend money and still be effective."

In a recent letter to congressional leaders, Darling wrote, "We must tackle these extraordinary complex issues now because the nation will not be able to pull out of this deep recession while health care costs continue to work against businesses' ability to grow jobs and compete globally" (CQ HealthBeat, 1/12).

Health Care IT Prospects


The inclusion of an investment in health care IT in the economic stimulus package could lead to wider adoption of electronic health records, according to some industry experts, the AP/Boston Globe reports (Perrone, AP/Boston Globe, 1/12). According to experts, such an investment could provide physicians with financial incentives to adopt EHRs, electronic prescribing and other forms of health care IT.

However, many experts have raised concerns about the interoperability, implementation and privacy issues associated with such an investment. This week, a number of groups -- such as Patient Privacy Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Social Workers and the AIDS Action Council -- in a memo plan to ask congressional leaders to address those concerns before they make large investments in health care IT. Other groups have said that the stimulus package should include interoperability standards for health care IT (Ackley, Roll Call, 1/12).

States Hope for Medicaid Assistance

Meanwhile, governors have said that financial assistance for states included in the economic stimulus package should take the form of increased federal Medicaid funds, rather than funds allocated for new infrastructure projects, USA Today reports (Cauchon/Keen, USA Today, 1/13).

Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association, said that funds for infrastructure projects "don't do anything for state budgets" and that a 2% to 4% increase in federal Medicaid funds would "help enormously" (Keen, USA Today, 1/13).

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