Would Meaningful Use Go Away Under A Romney Presidency?

We’re now in the final stages of a very closely fought presidential battle, and it’s possible that Republican challenger Mitt Romney will unseat incumbent Democrat Barack Obama.  Usually, I stay far away from such issues, but this time around, the healthcare business as we know it could change depending on who takes the prize.

So far, Congress hasn’t shown much stomach for rolling back the HITECH act.  However, in Mitt Romney, you have a candidate who plans to do whatever he can to repeal President Obama’s health reform legislation. That doesn’t relate directly to HITECH, which is of course the source of the funds that fuel the Meaningful Use program.  However, HITECH is associated with reform nonetheless and could possibly suffer a similar fate.

Given the Republican party’s traditional “hands off business” stance, it wouldn’t surprise me much if a President Romney tried to put a stop to HITECH as well, given that it imposes penalties eventually on organizations that don’t get on board. What’s more, you could potentially label MU an “unfunded mandate” (actually, something both parties target, but seemingly more of a Republican touchpoint) given that incentives don’t come near covering the long-term costs of managing most EMRs.

That being said, Meaningful Use has some genuine momentum at this point, and EMR penetration among physicians is starting to crest. Given that the program does reward those who have already spent (or are committed to spending) on a system,  it might be an unpopular move to stop MU in its tracks.

Also, it’s useful to remember that Meaningful Use is ultimately controlled by HHS, a battleship controlling the most popular federal program in existence (Medicare).  Even a president might think twice before trying to push around the agency that controls the fabled “third rail” of politics.

All told, I think MU is likely to last, even if Romney wins and attempts to roll back health reform. There’s just not enough of an upside for him in this fight, I think. ( John seems to agree.) What about you, folks?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

7 Comments

  • The other point that will make it difficult to cut is the number of businesses that invested in technology based on this funding. I don’t see Romney pulling the rug out underneath them.

  • I agree with Mark. Given the ongoing and planned investments by healthcare businesses, the disruption to these businesses is not something that Romney nor the Republicans would want to do in this economy. Though HITECH was part of the Stimulus, the Meaningful Use activities are highly in line with healthcare “transformation,” rather than reform, something that both parties agree needs to occur and must involve the digitization of healthcare (Newt Gingrich’s former Center for Health Transformation and his book “Paper Kills”; Paul Ryan’s support for health record trusts)).

  • I think it depends on whether Mitt and his friends have an investment in MU and make money off it, or if it costs them money. If it costs them, then it’s an unfunded mandate to be removed. If it pays for them, then they will encourage it! It’s not ideology to him, it’s profits.

    Now if he was truly about ideology, he’d be highly opposed to it as an unfunded mandate.

  • R Troy,
    I’ll say that when it comes to politicians I wouldn’t put anything past them. Although, I get the feeling that Mitt has plenty of money that he doesn’t need to do those sorts of things to improve his own financial position. Of course, it is politics and so who knows.

  • HITECH is not likely to go away under Romney, although different cronies than the current administration’s will be installed at ONC and its various committees.

    The beauty of health IT is that it allows politicians to claim to modernize and “fix” healthcare without actually doing any of the really hard stuff (payment reform, care delivery reform, malpractice reform, etc.).

    Watch for Obama and Co. to claim victory on HITECH (actually, they already did: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2012pres/06/20120619a.html) and for Romney and Co. to claim that a bunch of the 100K attestations were fraudulent / money for Obama’s friends.

    The CMS Innovation Center, under Romney, however, would be GONE. Same with AHRQ.

    QA

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