By Ken Congdon, editor in chief, Health IT Outcomes
Last Tuesday was a big day for Republicans, as the party gained 60 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate. As soon as the power in Congress shifted, Republican leaders began divulging plans to repeal healthcare reform. So, what does the new makeup of our government mean for the future of healthcare reform and health IT? At his point, it's difficult to say.
One thing is for certain — an outright repeal of the healthcare reform law is unlikely given President Obama's veto power. Relitigation of the law is also improbable given that the President has clearly stated that he is uninterested in refighting battles of the past and intends to focus on future initiatives instead. That being said, don't be surprised if Republicans in the House pass a symbolic bill repealing the healthcare reform law — a bill that in all likelihood will go nowhere in the Senate.
More likely are a string of efforts by Republicans to withhold the funding necessary to institute specific provisions of the healthcare reform law. According to South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, these efforts would not necessarily need to be defunding initiatives.
"We don't have to defund it [healthcare reform]," DeMint stressed in a recent interview on CNN. "We just don't have to pass the funding for it. The majority in the House can control the appropriation bills and we can just not include in those appropriation bills the funding for the implementation of ObamaCare. The president may fight us on it and it could be a very intense showdown. But, Republicans are in a position now to make sure no funding goes forward."
For now, the focus of these funding freezes is being placed squarely on The Affordable Care Act of 2010. The monetary incentives for EHR and telemedicine adoption, as well as the Medicare reimbursements for EHR meaningful use outlined in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) are safe ... for now. However, given the Republicans' aversion to spending given the state of our economy, combined with the fact that the stimulus bill has yet to create the jobs it was expected to yield, don't be surprised if Republicans target ARRA as a place to withhold funding as well. A war will surely be waged on many fronts regarding the future of healthcare in our country over the coming months, and one can only hope that Republicans and Democrats both realize the value and importance of IT as improving the system and cutting costs.
Ken Congdon is Editor In Chief of Health IT Outcomes. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.