Committees in the House and the Senate are working intensively on a major economic stimulus package expected to contain a number of provisions aimed at improving American health care, including funding to jump-start efforts to computerize health records, as well as additional funds for biomedical research and wellness programs.
The House legislation currently allocates $20 billion to invest in health information technology (HIT), whereas the Senate counterpart would authorize $5 billion for the effort. The final amount will need to be reconciled between the 2 chambers, but whatever the result, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) and others are urging caution against hastily legislating new, complex privacy provisions that might hinder the HIT effort.
One worry is that providers who have already incorporated HIT into their practice would be penalized with a set of “new, costly, and operationally burdensome mandates,” according to NACDS. In a letter to key House leaders, NACDS President and Chief Executive Officer Steven C. Anderson, ION, CAE, notes, “consensus has yet to be reached among all relevant stakeholders on how best to address complex privacy issues.” NACDS, a strong proponent of HIT, is suggesting that if privacy provisions are included in the stimulus legislation, Congress include language allowing the Department of Health & Human Services to negotiate the privacy protections with health care providers.
House and Senate Appropriations Committee versions of the stimulus package also include funding for health care effectiveness research, often referred to as “comparative effectiveness.” Both committees would provide $1.1 billion in funding for federal research agencies to compare the effectiveness of different medical treatments funded by Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs.
Other proposed health care funding in the stimulus legislation would go to a range of prevention and wellness programs, such as hospital infection prevention, block grants to state and local public health departments, immunization programs, evidence-based disease prevention, and pandemic flu preparedness.
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