Fighting For Pediatric Stimulus

I had an interesting conversation the other day with the sales head of one of the big EHR/PM systems (you’ve heard of them) who bragged to me about their lobbyists down in Washington DC and implied how he, as a result, is more aware of what’s “really” going on down there than the rest of us.

Of course, it would never occur to me to have a lobbyist working for PCC.  I know I’m naieve, but we just don’t think that way.  Lobbying on behalf of our clients, though – that’s another story.

Which leads me to Dr. Sue Kressly who was down in DC on Wednesday, fighting for a little fairness for pediatricians as part of the stimulus bill.  Some of the reasons I think the HIT stimulus package is a load of phooey are addressed by Sue.  Thanks to Greg Anderson, of OP fame, for sending this along.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIoL5aTCqKw

This links to section 12, which is her original testimony. you can hear her, but for
some reason the camera shot stays focused on the chairwoman. …
Also, Sue is quoted below in an article about the hearing that was published in
Congress Daily.

Smaller Medical Practices Get Help With Electronic Records
Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Obama administration’s implementation of stimulus package incentives intended to
spur nationwide adoption of electronic medical records will give special attention
to solo practitioners and small group practices, HHS Health IT Coordinator David
Blumenthal told lawmakers Wednesday.

He testified before the House Small Business Regulations and Healthcare
Subcommittee, which heard from pediatricians, optometrists and others who fear they
could be disadvantaged when the government doles out about $17 billion in Medicare
and Medicaid bonuses, grants and technical assistance.

Under the statute, physicians beginning in 2011 will be eligible for up to $44,000
under Medicare for using health IT, although what constitutes “meaningful use” of
that technology has yet to be determined. Starting in 2015, penalties for those who
fail to demonstrate “meaningful use” will take effect. Blumenthal said HHS is
setting up listening sessions around the country targeted at small practices to hear
how they believe stimulus money can work for them.

Currently, 21 percent of physicians have adopted electronic medical records, but
only 13 percent of small providers have done so. For that reason, Congress created
grant programs to stand up regional extension centers that would assist and educate
providers, with priority given to small practices and those focused on primary care,
Blumenthal said.

House Small Business Regulations and Healthcare Subcommittee Chairwoman Kathy
Dahlkemper, D-Pa., said the bill she introduced in conjunction with the hearing will
build on the stimulus by establishing a Small Business Administration loan program
designed specifically for doctors who want to make health IT investments. The
starting price tag for such systems is $32,000 per doctor, she noted.
“That’s a big investment for any business, and for many physicians it is enough of a
hurdle to stop them from purchasing HIT,” she said.

Susan Kressly, who testified on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said
her colleagues are deprived by low-payment rates under Medicaid and because of
disparities between stimulus requirements for practices paid by Medicaid rather than
Medicare. The Academy thinks pediatricians whose caseload consists of 20 percent
Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program and the uninsured should be eligible
for stimulus funds. Pennsylvania Optometric Association Executive Director Charles
Stuckey added his group is troubled that a “large and diverse group of providers”
could be left behind.

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