President Obama's re-election on Tuesday night suggests that the current trajectory of federal health IT initiatives is likely to continue, FierceHealthIT reports.
In 2009, Obama signed the federal economic stimulus package, which authorized Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments for health care providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified electronic health record systems. The federal government already has started awarding meaningful use payments to eligible hospitals and health care providers.
Health IT Efforts Expected To Continue
Edward Marx, CIO of Texas Health Resources, said he expects to see minimal change in federal health IT efforts. "The status quo [in Washington, D.C.] means the status quo for health IT," he said.
David Harlow -- principal of the Harlow Group, a law and consulting firm -- said he believes the Obama administration slowed its release of health IT guidance prior to the election. He said, "HIPAA, HITECH and health reform regulations should start flowing again, which will help folks who need to plan or take action before statutory deadlines," adding, "We'll be back to normal soon" (Bowman, FierceHealthIT, 11/7).
National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari said that Obama's re-election will allow the federal government to continue advancing health IT efforts. He said, "We've made incredible progress in the past four years on health IT, and in my view it gives us a chance to continue to make strides, to continue the essential thrust of the policies and approaches."
However, he added that the election also "affirms our responsibility ... to come together, Republicans and Democrats, to do the people's work" (Murphy, EHR Intelligence, 11/7).
Meaningful Use Program Could Face Additional Scrutiny
However, experts noted that the meaningful use program -- which historically has received bipartisan support -- might face increased scrutiny from some lawmakers (Sullivan, Healthcare IT News, 11/7).
Harry Greenspun -- senior adviser for health care transformation and technology at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions -- said, "So many of us in the health IT industry take it on face that technology is good and that more rapid adoption is good. But there are a lot of people who question that" (FierceHealthIT, 11/7).
In October, four GOP House members sent a letter asking HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to suspend incentive payments for Stage 2 of the meaningful use program.
The letter claimed that nearly $10 billion might have been wasted because the rules under Stage 2 are "weaker" than those under Stage 1. It added that certain standards in Stage 2 are "insufficient" or "woefully inadequate."
Soon after, four GOP senators sent a letter to Sebelius requesting a meeting with officials from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and CMS to discuss Stage 2 of the meaningful use program.
Despite the lawmakers' letters, ONC and CMS officials have said that the federal government is unlikely to halt incentive payments for Stage 2 of the meaningful use program (iHealthBeat, 10/24).
Mostashari previously downplayed the lawmakers' criticisms, noting that the period before a presidential election is known as "the silly season" (iHealthBeat, 10/5).
Health Reform Implementation Likely To Move Forward
Obama's re-election also indicates that health IT initiatives related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will continue.
The health reform law includes several provisions that rely on a health IT foundation, such as:
- The creation of state health insurance exchanges, which will serve as online marketplaces for consumers and small businesses to compare and purchase health plans; and
- The formation of accountable care organizations, which will rely on health IT systems to coordinate care (Gowan, TechNewsDaily, 11/7).