Election 2010: Don't expect significant changes to HITECH

All this week, editors of the FierceHealthcare family of publications are weighing in on what kind of impact the big Republican wins in Tuesday's midterm election will have on healthcare reform and policy. With regard to EMRs, the short answer is: very little.

While House Republican leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who is poised to become the next speaker of the House in January, and many of his fellow GOP lawmakers talk about repealing all or part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act--derided from the right as "ObamaCare"--it's important to remember that the HITECH Act and its subsidies for "meaningful use" of EMRs is not part of that legislation (despite what some media outlets have erroneously reported). No, "meaningful use" is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787 billion stimulus bill enacted in February 2009.

Now, the stimulus isn't exactly popular among Republicans or even some centrist Democrats like Senator-elect Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and ARRA passed mostly along party lines, too, but the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act portion of ARRA had broad, bipartisan support. Some self-styled deficit hawks and small-government types, like Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-Ky.), may see the $27 billion allocated to encourage EMR adoption and use as wasteful spending, but I seriously doubt Republican leadership will make this an issue.

There may be some push as part of congressional oversight of executive rule-making to toughen the requirements for "meaningful use" of EMRs so Medicare and Medicaid cash isn't thrown away on inadequate technology. Just don't expect any strong movement to repeal HITECH in the 112th Congress. - Neil