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Stimulus Wasn't About Health Care... Now it Is   February 15th, 2009
Health care aspects of stimuls bill first dismissed, now embraced       

 
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What a difference a few days and a successful vote in the House and Senate make. Initially the impacts of Obama's spending package on the health sector were downplayed; now the stimulus bill is being heralded by the Obama administration as the first steps towards health care reforms.

On Wednesday, February 11th, before the vote on the spending bill:

Critics are raising flags about a provision in the economic recovery package that they say would give the federal government too much control over health care...

Betsy McCaughey, the former lieutenant governor of New York who wrote a critical column on the measure this week, said that would allow the federal government to hand information to doctors and guide their decisions at a patient's bedside...

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office issued a statement disputing the criticism of the language, and the Senate Committee on Finance released a statement asserting that the IT director would "absolutely not" have influence about the decisions doctors and patients make about tests and treatment.

McCaughey said the language in the provision is too vague and would empower the secretary of health and human services to impose harsh penalties.


Then, four days later and after the Congress approved the bill, on Saturday, February 14th:

The Obama administration is using the economic stimulus package to show it has made serious progress on the president's health care reform agenda...

"This represents the beginning steps of the president's health reform vision," said Jenny Backus, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Department.

Backus said. "There's widespread agreement on the need for comparative effectiveness. It's not a partisan thing."


So, before the vote on the spending package, Republicans were sounding the alarms regarding the spending bill encroaching on the health care industry. The criticisms were downplayed by Democrats who said it was really just about moving health records to electronic form.

Then the bill passed and, now, both the Obama Administration and the department of Health and Human Services (the very agency that was flagged for concern by Republicans) are celebrating passage of the bill as "the beginning steps of the president's health reform vision." And all the sudden "comparative effectiveness" is being mentioned and the claim is made that it's not a partisan thing.

Just a quick note: Making health records available electronically is NOT "reform." It's just upgrading their information system. When they talk about "reform," they're talking about something else. And, as far as I know, the only thing in the stimulus bill regarding the health industry other than digitizing health records is comparative effectiveness. That's the buzzword that has to be watched for in Obama's efforts going forward.

And the administration has now admitted, as Republicans were saying for weeks, that the spending bill wasn't just about "stimulus." It was a laundry list of liberal social policies and programs. Now the administration is hailing it as the beginning of Obama's version of health care reform.

Would now be a good moment for Republicans to say, "We told you so!"

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