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Business

The Hogzilla Hospital Stimulus Act

The purpose of the stimulus was not to provide a kickback for investments made back in the day. Its purpose is to drive the benefits of health IT down to poor hospitals and clinics that could not otherwise afford the gear.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

The first bill to change the meaningful use rules has already been filed.

H.R. 6072, dubbed "The Electronic Health Record Incentives for Multi-Campus Hospitals Act of 2010," would change the rules to allow hospitals with multiple campuses to get multiple stimulus checks. The American Hospital Association likes it.

The argument is that, even if hospitals like Emory (its Crawford Long Hospital was renamed Emory Midtown a few years ago) are buying a single compatible system for all units, there are "incremental acquisition, training and implementation costs" that should still be compensated.

It's a money grab. My own working title is the "Hogzilla Hospital Stimulus Act." Like a lot of other proposals, it's designed specifically to send money to people who don't need it, and deny money to people who do.

(Picture of Hogzilla from Wikipedia. Yeah, I know about the kid in Alabama who supposedly bagged a bigger one. But that's an AP photo. Besides, the kid probably heard the pig was going to sign with Auburn. (Rimshot.) But I digress.)

It's a money grab that might work, given the AHA's clout. Most of the House Ways & Means Committee has already signed-on, two Republicans as well as nearly all the Democrats. It's on a fast track.

But there is a reason why the rule was written as it was. The money's not unlimited, and the big hospitals have already made most of their investments. Many have even gotten a return on that investment.

The purpose of the stimulus was not to provide a kickback for investments made back in the day. Its purpose is to drive the benefits of health IT down to poor hospitals and clinics that could not otherwise afford the gear.

The big hospitals were already being compensated under the rule. Now they want another bite of the apple, and they've got a lot of friends behind them. If they succeed small clinics and individual practitioners, the people the HITECH stimulus was designed to help, could be shut out.

No matter how popular the bill is with the committee, of course, it has a tough road to hoe. Congress will soon leave for its August recess. This will be followed immediately by the political campaign. Senate Republicans don't want to see much passed before those elections.

In this case, their stalling could be doing us a favor.

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