Representative Paul Ryan (R-WS) has received plenty of media attention ever since presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney picked him as his running mate. And most of the coverage focuses on Ryan’s plans to alter the way Medicare dispenses benefits and make major cuts to the federal budget.
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Given the Representative’s inclination toward smaller government and shrunken budgets, you would be justified in assuming that he would automatically be opposed to most of the government’s current efforts to encourage the adoption of electronic health records (EHR). However, you would be wrong.
It’s not entirely clear whether Ryan agrees with the direct incentive payments being doled out to hospitals and physicians under the meaningful use program. But indications suggest that the ardent budget-cutter does see some value in health IT more generally.
For example, Ryan was the sponsor of the bill that originally established the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT back in 2006. He also signed on to legislation that same year that would have set guidelines for EHR use. HR 5559 would have clearly defined the government’s role in promoting health IT, developing standards and creating laws governing the exchange of health information.
In a press release issued at the time, Ryan said that “by moving from largely paper-based records to a secure system of electronic health records, we can lower costs, improve patient care and reduce medical errors.”
And Ryan’s enthusiasm for health IT has not diminished over the course of the past six years. In the Roadmap for America’s Future, a Ryan plan published in 2010, the representative laid out a vision that calls for the building of a National Health Information Network that would allow every American to take their personal health record with them from one physician to the next.
Now, the Paul Ryan plan has also called for totally market-based approaches to achieving these goals, rather than the centralized approach favored by the current administration. It’s not clear that he would continue the current incentive program if the decision were completely in his hands.
But the fact Ryan sees value in health IT and recognizes a role for the government in encouraging technology adoption in health care does highlight the continued bipartisan support for health IT. Since the early 2000s both Republicans and Democrats have supported technology initiatives. While the form of support may change with the rising and falling fortunes of each party, health IT is likely to remain a part of any administration’s plans to get health care costs under control and improve outcomes for the foreseeable future.