The Digital Office

Even before the final votes were counted, HIMSS provided an informative webinar on Nov. 12 on the anticipated impact of the election on this very topic. Although it is impossible to be definitive at this early stage, the webinar provided insights which should put proponents of health IT at ease.

With the ripple effects of the mid-term elections still being felt, one thing is certain — the Obama Administration’s healthcare reform legislation, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the “Affordable Care Act”) is squarely within the cross-hairs of the invigorated Republican electorate.

What is not as certain is what parts of the healthcare reform legislation will be most affected.

Of particular interest are the health IT initiatives which, while not a part of the Affordable Care Act, are still associated with “Obamacare.” Jennifer Haberkorn, Health Care Policy/Politics Reporter, Politico, spoke on the national elections. She does not expect many changes in the Affordable Care Act, at least not right away, and explained that the approach to health care will be in three phases: oversight (Congressional hearings); defunding; and repeal of select provisions including those impacting small businesses. Ms. Haberkorn believes that EHR money will likely not be touched as the HITECH Act does not appear to be in danger at present.

The next speaker was Tim Story, National Committee on State Legislatures, who discussed the mid-term elections at the state legislative level. Mr. Story noted that for the first time since the 1948, Republicans hold the majority of state legislature seats in the country. According to Mr. Story, this new found majority will likely be bolstered by redistricting that will shift Congressional seats from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and New York to Texas, Arizona and Florida. Mr. Story also did not see significant changes for health IT. He believes that state legislatures are anticipating large deficits, but do not want to raise taxes. As a result, the new legislators will likely accept federal money for health care IT despite anti-Washington sentiment.

The last speaker was Kathleen Nolan, MPH, Director, Health Division National Governors Association, who spoke on the wave of new governors. Ms. Nolan explained that new governors mean changes at the agency level, so many states will likely have new Insurance Commissioners as well as new leaders of departments of health and Medicaid. As with the other speakers, Ms. Nolan did not anticipate cuts in health IT. Ms. Nolan did confirm that because the Governor selects the health IT coordinator, there will likely be many new health IT coordinators across country.

An informative, live Q&A session accompanied the presentation. Among the topics discussed were that the mid-term elections will likely not: impact regional extension center (REC) funding; work sizeable changes to privacy and security enforcement; or affect funding for the health information exchange HIE or nationwide health information network NHIN initiatives at this juncture.

The consensus prediction was that health IT initiatives should continue as planned and that those dealing with health IT on the state level will likely see a host of fresh, but not hostile, faces.