Nov 08

Post Election: HIT Funding Safe for Now, Expert Predicts.

Now that the midterm elections are over, federal healthcare IT funding is likely to go untouched for now, one expert says.

“It’s not on the radar,” according to Jennifer Haberkorn, a healthcare policy and politics reporter with POLITICO and a speaker at a Friday press briefing hosted by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). “The attitude on the Hill is that health IT funding is creating jobs,” Haberkorn said.

Nonetheless, expect more noise and contention about healthcare in general up on Capitol Hill, she said.

House Republicans picked up 60 seats in the Nov. 2 midterm election, with the results of several races still outstanding. Many of the few moderate House Democrats who survived Tuesday night opposed the healthcare reform law, Haberkorn said.

On the state level, Republicans picked up at least 10 governor’s seats and hundreds of state legislature seats that could drive state-level opposition to the health reform law down the road, according to Haberkorn.

The new GOP majority in the House, however, does not indicate a full repeal of healthcare reform is likely, she said. A full repeal in the House is probable, but it will die in the Senate, where Democrats still hold the majority. Obama won’t sign a bill repealing healthcare reform, even if it should get approved in both houses.

“Plan B would be to repeal pieces of the law,” Haberkorn said. “A lot of pieces are up for grabs, but it’s unclear what pieces will be up for grabs. The GOP will throw everything against the wall and see what sticks.”

There are multiple paths the GOP could take, according to Haberkorn, involving oversight, defunding and legislation. For oversight, the GOP could uncover what happened on the Hill during the debate of healthcare reform. They could also try to defund the law, but there is relatively a small amount of funding that could be subject to defunding by Congress. In addition, the GOP could find the provisions that are most susceptible to repeal and force President Obama to use his veto pen.

Tim Storey, senior fellow at the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) said Republicans surged forward in state control as a result of this election. They now control more than 53 percent of legislative seats and this election resulted in the highest number of new governors in history.

“If Americans wanted change, they got change at the state level,” Storey said. “It really was an historic night for the GOP.”

Fiscal conservatism is going to rule the day for the next couple of years, Storey said. State lawmakers will have some tough decisions to make with nationwide state budget shortfalls.

Kathleen Nolan, director of the health division at the National Governors Association said the turnover of 29 governor seats in this election will have policy implications for healthcare, but it’s too early to tell how that will play out.

When new governors come in, they bring in a whole new team, including insurance commissioners and Medicaid directors. Until these people get set up in their positions, this will leave a lot of questions about how it will affect state healthcare policy, Nolan said, agreeing that budget issues would dominate the landscape for states.

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