EHR Incentives (HITECH Act) Likely Safe With New Congress

Posted on November 8, 2010 I Written By

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Gov Info Security recently published their thoughts on the possible effects of the new Congress on the EHR incentive money known as the HITECH act.

Republicans, however, have made it clear that they’ll look for any opportunity to repeal some or all of the healthcare reform package. Observers say that means the HITECH Act likely won’t get as much attention, even though the EHR incentives are funded by President Obama’s economic stimulus package.
“One of the things that the Republican ‘pledge to America’ includes is a plan to take away any unobligated stimulus money,” says Dave Roberts, vice president of government relations at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. “I don’t think that’s going to apply to the HITECH provisions. Folks on the Hill tell me that health IT is a bipartisan issue. Democrats and Republicans see it as a way to improve healthcare.”

Nevertheless, Republicans will closely scrutinize all spending, Roberts acknowledges. “And they’re going to take a close look at all the provisions of the HITECH Act to make sure they’re being implemented as directed by Congress.”

Even if the presumed new speaker of the House, John Boehner, R-Ohio, was to push for spending cuts, such as eliminating the EHR incentives, getting such a proposal approved would prove very difficult, Roberts argues. “With the two chambers of Congress controlled by different parties, getting them to agree on something will be next to impossible,” he says.

In addition, President Obama, who is strongly supportive of healthcare IT, likely would veto any cuts in HITECH spending, notes Rob Tennant, senior policy adviser for the Medical Group Management Association. And overriding a veto would prove extremely difficult.

I tend to agree. Certainly something crazy could happen (it’s government work after all), but I think the likelihood of HITECH Act funding being taken away is pretty slim. As it describes above, it would take a really unique piece of legislation to get it through the house, senate and then the President. I just don’t see that happening at all.

Plus, I thought the point of the money being so far along in the regulation process is another good reason. Although, since checks haven’t been paid out yet, I’m guessing that there’s still potential that they’ll put it on hold. Just seems really unlikely to me.