It’s been a stormy fortnight, weather-wise, for a good chunk of the country. In Washington, health care and health IT initiatives were battered by winds of potential political change as well.
It started out well. President Obama gave shouts out to health IT development initiatives in his State of the Union address. Following that was national health IT coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal announcing further grants to advance health information exchange and regional extension centers.
Then came Sarah Palin rebutting the address, mocking the president’s tech investments as “a bullet train to bankruptcy,” and more state challenges to health care reform, as Florida weighed in with a ruling that the federal law is unconstitutional. While that has little direct impact on health IT funding — it’s not the same law as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act — some politicians have set their sights on HITECH itself. The House voted to repeal health care reform, and it will eventually vote on whether or not to repeal, too.
After all that, Blumenthal stunned the health IT community with his annoucement that he’d step down as national coordinator for health IT this spring.
Amid all these events, health IT reporter Anthony Guerra mused on the possibilities of defunding HITECH. Then the Health Information Management Systems Society took some shots at federal standards for health data exchange, in comments on metadata tagging it sent to the President’s Advisory Council on Science and Technology, or PCAST.
Could HITECH be defunded? That would seem a long shot. After all, it was an initiative kicked off by the George W. Bush administration, as this history written by bill co-sponsor Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) points out. Also, it burns a lot of political capital to defund a federal program — especially when it pits a Republican House against a Democrat Senate and White House.
So, buckle in if you live in an area prone to snow and ice storms (or even in an area that isn’t accustomed to them — like D.C.). And if you’re a stakeholder in some form of health IT, too. February and March could be tough winter months if current trends hold.