Reading the Tea Leaves: The HITECH Act & Health Reform in the Wake of the Election

NOV 17

The results of the November mid-term elections signaled Republican gains across the board and a majority win in the House. This power shift creates an air of uncertainly and raises a major question for the future of healthcare in the United States.  For those in the Healthcare IT domain, many wondered if this political sea change would affect the $20 Billion promised to EMR adoption through “meaningful use” in the HITECH Act.

Many pundits believe a major focus of the recent election was Obama’s healthcare reform legislation. In fact, according to HIMSS, nearly 20% of voters indicated that health was the single most significant factor in their vote.  It’s important to remember that the HITECH Act is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) established in 2009 and not part Obama’s healthcare reform initiative.  The HITECH Act was established as an important initiative to create jobs and usher America’s outdated healthcare system into the modern age.  When HITECH was established in 2009 it received wide support from democrats and republicans alike.

So what do these election results mean for the future of the HITECH Act?

  • Repeal or reduction in funding is highly unlikely. Most experts can agree with the conclusion that healthcare IT funding is not a key item targeted for spending cuts.  According to Jennifer Haberkorn, a healthcare policy and politics reporter with POLITICO, “It’s not on the radar”.  Haberkorn and other experts agree that Obama’s Healthcare Reform is the banner issue and the HITECH Act should proceed as planned with full funding.
 
  • Increased oversight on all healthcare spending, including HITECH. More scrutiny will be placed on all government spending going forward and there will be no exception for the HITECH Act.
 
  • More uncertainty. All of these factors create uncertainty.  This could lead to hospitals spending money quickly rather than wisely. Changes to the definition of “meaningful use” or other legislative modifications will create headaches for healthcare institutions banking on these Federal dollars.
 

The view of TripleTree and most experts is that HITECH Act is safe for the time being.  This is good news to the Healthcare IT domain and those who are driving to see technology improvements in the U.S. healthcare system.  TripleTree is closely following these developments. Stay tuned for updates related to the HITECH Act.  Visit www.himss.org to see a detailed presentation entitled, “A Post – Election Analysis: Potential Effects on Health IT Policy”.

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Michael Boardman