House passes stimulus package with $100B for healthcare

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Healthcare stimulus must now face tough battle in the Senate. Image Source: Phil's Favorites

The U.S. House of Representatives voted late Wednesday evening to pass President Barack Obama’s stimulus package of federal tax cuts and spending worth $819 billion, with more than $100 billion earmarked for healthcare—designating an additional $87 billion to existing state Medicaid budgets and approximately $20 billion for healthcare IT.

The 244-188 vote, which did not include any Republican votes, sends the bill to the Senate, where a parallel measure is taking shape, with a provision for adjusting the alternative minimum tax that could drive the cost of the entire package to nearly $900 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Senate Appropriations Committee offered a few amendments to the bill, including provisions to ensure that long-term care facilities are eligible for funding and to provide hospitals that have already made a healthcare IT investment with loans if they meet federal privacy and compatibility standards, according to Government Health IT. The bill also included a provision to have the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) initiate a strategy to ensure healthcare providers do not receive funding through both Medicaid and Medicare.

Additionally, language added to an accompanying report of the bill indicates that PHR vendors, such as Microsoft and Google, must protect the privacy of health information imported into their health record platforms, which are not currently regulated by HIPAA.

Another amendment would allow HHS to require that all healthcare IT funds be used for technology made in the United States with materials from this country if there is a sufficient supply to meet those requirements, reported Government Health IT.