GOP Bill Would Gut HITECH FundingUnobligated HITECH Act Funds Would Be Eliminated
The Spending Reduction Act of 2011, H.R. 408, would cut $45 billion in unspent money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, better known as the economic stimulus package. HITECH, which was part of that package, includes about $27 billion for electronic health records incentives. It also funds statewide health information exchanges, regional extension centers to assist smaller organizations adopting EHRs and college healthcare IT programs, among other efforts.
"The Spending Reduction Act would rescind unobligated money for everything in Division A of the stimulus, including HITECH," says Brian Straessle, communications director for the Republican Study Committee. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the committee, is one of the bill's sponsors.
The legislation also would cut funding to carry out the healthcare reform law, among dozens of other cuts.
The HITECH EHR incentive program just kicked off this month, and extensive payments from Medicare and Medicaid aren't expected to flow until May, although some states have started to issue their first Medicaid payments.
HITECH and SecurityIn addition to jump-starting efforts to automate patient records, HITECH is serving as a catalyst for ramping up information security (See: EHR Incentives Spur Security Steps). That's because to qualify for the incentives, hospitals and physicians must conduct a risk assessment and mitigate identified risks. They also must use a certified EHR system that includes security functions.
Republican efforts to cut stimulus funding had been widely anticipated. But many observers say it will prove difficult to pass such cuts in both chambers of Congress and overcome a presidential veto (See: Will New Congress Alter HITECH Plans?). "With the two chambers of Congress controlled by different parties, getting them to agree on something will be next to impossible," says Dave Roberts, vice president of government relations at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.