Obama To Create, Save Three Million Jobs In Health Care

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As part of his proposed two-year economic stimulus package of between $675 billion and $775 billion, President-elect Barack Obama seeks to create or save three million jobs, his transition team announced on Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reports (Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 12/21). According to the New York Times, the "sorts of jobs Mr. Obama would propose to create involve ... installation of information technology in medical facilities," among others. Obama also "might also propose subsidies to train more nurses, both to create jobs now and address a looming shortage in the health professions," the New York Times reports.

In addition, with "millions more Americans losing their health care coverage, ... Obama will propose major new spending to subsidize states' share of Medicaid and their children's health programs and to expand health care coverage for those who lose insurance from their employers," according to the New York Times (Calmes, New York Times, 12/21). Congressional sources have said that the package likely will include at least $100 billion for states, in large part for health care programs, and about $350 billion for infrastructure, which includes an expansion of electronic health records.

According to the Washington Post, Obama advisers are "working to convince lawmakers of the wisdom of limiting the package to projects that would create a large number of jobs quickly or make a down payment on Obama's broader economic goals, such as improving the health care system" (Montgomery, Washington Post, 12/21).

House, Senate Prospects

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are "scrambling to coordinate work" on the economic stimulus package, but they have "only a narrow window to get their House and Senate portions together to have the bill ready by Jan. 20," when Obama takes office, CongressDaily reports. According to congressional sources, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) seeks to move the package to the floor by Jan. 8, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) seeks to move the package to the floor as early as Jan. 13 (Sanchez, CongressDaily, 12/19).

In the House, the package faces opposition from Republicans and the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition because of the cost (Ota, CQ Today, 12/19). However, the package likely will pass in the House. In the Senate, "rules afford the minority plenty of routes to hold things up and shape the final outcome of the bill, potentially giving the incoming minority of 41 or 42 Republicans a significant say in the final form of Obama's stimulus legislation," Roll Call reports. Senate Democratic aides have said that "GOP cooperation will be necessary to approve the type of stimulus package being discussed," and a "senior Republican Senate aide signaled that the GOP Conference intends to shape Obama's package to fit its parameters," according to Roll Call (Drucker, Roll Call, 12/19).

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Biden To Head Middle-Class Task Force

The Obama transition team on Sunday announced that Vice President-elect Joe Biden will head a White House Task Force on Working Families, "giving the incoming vice president a defined role in the administration's domestic policy," the Wall Street Journal reports (Weisman, Wall Street Journal, 12/22). According to Biden, the task force, which will include the HHS secretary, will recommend proposals to ensure that middle-class U.S. residents are "no longer being left behind" on health care and other areas. Such proposals could include legislation or executive orders, the AP/Post reports (Freking, AP/Washington Post, 12/22).

Opinion Piece

The inclusion of funds for health care IT in the economic stimulus package "could spur a critical mass of the nation's doctors to finally enter the information age, but unless the funds are tied to standards for the interoperability of health IT systems, the expenditure could do more harm than good," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt writes in a Post opinion piece. He writes, "Health IT systems produce value when they are interoperable," but "when they're not, doctors who invest in electronic health records cannot share information with each other or add lab results to your file or send electronic prescriptions to your pharmacist." Leavitt adds, "System standards are needed to protect privacy and ensure that content ... is standard for every patient, every time."

According to Leavitt, "investments should go only toward supporting exchanges of electronic health information that are compliant with nationally recognized standards" because "simply offering up funds in the stimulus package will not get the results we want" and might "set our efforts back" (Leavitt, Washington Post, 12/22).

Editorial

The "best way to ensure" that the economic stimulus package is not "larded up with unrelated measures" is for Obama to "pursue a smaller package that would inject cash into the economy almost immediately" and delay his larger plans, a Post editorial states. "In no way are we advocating that ... Obama abandon his larger plans for transportation and infrastructure, digitizing medical records, school construction and repairs, and energy efficiency," but that "kind of plan and the discussion it should entail should not be rushed through in the next two months," according to the editorial (Washington Post, 12/22).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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