Lawmaker Criticizes Health Secretary Plan To Privatize IT Group

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Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) condemned HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt's plan to privatize the American Health Information Community, saying, "It is well past time for federal leadership to fix this market failure," Health IT Strategist reports.

Stark, chair of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, said, "If the private sector was interested in developing or able to promote interoperable standards for health [IT], it would have done so years ago -- and private companies wouldn't today be asking the government to pay for it" (Robeznieks, Health IT Strategist, 6/14).

Leavitt on Tuesday released a timeline for transitioning AHIC from a government advisory group into an independent, private organization by January 2009.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in April hired three consulting firms of varying sizes -- Alchemy, Avalere Health and Booz Allen Hamilton -- for about $100,000 each to develop business models for the AHIC successor. ONCHIT this month will evaluate the plans and identify the most viable elements and practices.

Public comment will be accepted from July 2 to July 20 and will be included in a prototype, which will be presented to and analyzed by AHIC members in August and September. A final prototype and transition plan will be unveiled at AHIC's Sept. 18 meeting, and the successor organization in the fall will be established and start operating (iHealthBeat, 6/13).

Stark said, "Self-interested private firms have and will continue to fight among themselves over specifics, further delaying the adoption of money-saving and lifesaving technologies."

"The Bush administration's desire to privatize the government's leading advisory committee on health [IT] is consistent with Republican attempts to privatize Medicare," Stark said, adding, "Both actions take American health care in the wrong direction" (Health IT Strategist, 6/14).


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