Healthcare could nab $100B payday in Obama stimulus package

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The $775 billion economic stimulus plan being organized by President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats could pump more than $100 billion into the U.S. healthcare sector, modernizing its delivery system and providing care to those who lost health insurance along with their jobs.

Politico reported that the bulk of the money, about $80 billion, would go to state Medicaid programs that are expected to grow with rising unemployment. Officials worry that without a cash infusion, state lawmakers facing already strained budgets would be forced to cut the safety-net healthcare program.

Roughly another $20 billion would be used as a down payment on Obama’s $50 billion campaign promise to update the current U.S. healthcare delivery system, Politico said. The effort is aimed at improving quality and saving money and could include digitizing patients’ medical records and pushing doctors to use e-prescribing.

Some of the funds could be funneled as incentive payments directly to doctors and hospitals that participate in Medicare, which provides healthcare to the nation’s seniors, according to Politico. The idea is similar to the payments used to coax doctors to make the upgrade from prescription pads to e-prescribing.

By increasing the federal portion of the state-federal partnership, Politico said that officials want to discourage Medicaid cuts that would make it more difficult for people to qualify for coverage.