Would Meaningful Use Go Away Under A Romney Presidency?

We’re now in the final stages of a very closely fought presidential battle, and it’s possible that Republican challenger Mitt Romney will unseat incumbent Democrat Barack Obama.  Usually, I stay far away from such issues, but this time around, the healthcare business as we know it could change depending on who takes the prize.

So far, Congress hasn’t shown much stomach for rolling back the HITECH act.  However, in Mitt Romney, you have a candidate who plans to do whatever he can to repeal President Obama’s health reform legislation. That doesn’t relate directly to HITECH, which is of course the source of the funds that fuel the Meaningful Use program.  However, HITECH is associated with reform nonetheless and could possibly suffer a similar fate.

Given the Republican party’s traditional “hands off business” stance, it wouldn’t surprise me much if a President Romney tried to put a stop to HITECH as well, given that it imposes penalties eventually on organizations that don’t get on board. What’s more, you could potentially label MU an “unfunded mandate” (actually, something both parties target, but seemingly more of a Republican touchpoint) given that incentives don’t come near covering the long-term costs of managing most EMRs.

That being said, Meaningful Use has some genuine momentum at this point, and EMR penetration among physicians is starting to crest. Given that the program does reward those who have already spent (or are committed to spending) on a system,  it might be an unpopular move to stop MU in its tracks.

Also, it’s useful to remember that Meaningful Use is ultimately controlled by HHS, a battleship controlling the most popular federal program in existence (Medicare).  Even a president might think twice before trying to push around the agency that controls the fabled “third rail” of politics.

All told, I think MU is likely to last, even if Romney wins and attempts to roll back health reform. There’s just not enough of an upside for him in this fight, I think. ( John seems to agree.) What about you, folks?