Health care wins in initial stimulus package

Responding to calls for Washington to take swift action in the face of the bleakest economy in decades, the House of Representatives released a $825 billion package last week designed to stimulate the economy. The early version of the plan targets nearly $150 billion for health care.

The Wall Street Journal has a reasonably thorough overview of the "winners" and "losers," as well as an explanation of the at times arcane budgetary process involved. "The plan’s final shape will depend not only on horse-trading among
lawmakers in the House and Senate, but also on the outcome of the
lobbying frenzy now under way," the Journal says.

Here’s an early breakdown of the health care package:

  • $39 billion in subsidies to health insurance for the unemployed; providing coverage through Medicaid
  • $90 billion to shore up state Medicaid programs
  • $20 billion for health-information technology systems
  • $4 billion for preventative care

It’s worth noting that those numbers don’t include the expansion of SCHIP the House approved earlier in the week.

Around the Web: If you want to track exactly where all the money is going – probably not a bad idea when you’re talking about $825 billion plus change- you’ll theoretically be able to follow spending on Recovery. gov. But for the time being you’ll have to wait. The site is not yet online – perhaps not the best sign.

John Irvine contributed to this report from Washington D.C.

11 replies »

  1. Critical to any society is maintaining good health care for all. Imagine a society where illness is rampant. The cost to government for negligently ignoring the sick, dying and those who will become ill due to lack of proper health care will necessarily be borne by taxpayers in one form or another. Originally, health care was provided in the US by employers because many workplace environments were dangerous. Employers worried about lawsuits from improper adherence to worker safety. –

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  2. No no no no get your facts straight! The republicans aren’t to blame for this… When the House and Senate voted for the Stimulus Package, 246 democrats from the house voted YES and 0 republicans voted YES. In the Senate, 57 democrats voted YES, and 3 republicans voted YES.

    On top of the Obama just gave away $300 million dollars to Kaiser Permanente in San Diego through the Stimulus Package. Aren’t they a “NON-PROFIT” organization?? oh wait, all their execs support the democratic party… Now Obama is bribing democrats to vote for him. So if your pissed about the stimulus package, dont go blaming republicans, blame yourself.

  3. Healthcare reform can start now with no high price tag
    Obama and Congress are taking the entirely wrong approach to healthcare reform. We can be doing so much right now to improve healthcare without suspicious price tags. There is nothing wrong with carrying out reform in two phases: the immediate and low price-tag phase, and the longer-term, let’s-find-the-money-first phase.
    What can be done now, with little public opposition:
    One group plan
    Everyone would have access to insurance if all insurance companies were required to offer a plan to individuals as though they were all in one large company group plan, with the same rate and no exclusions. There is no cost to taxpayers; premiums are paid by the insured.
    Guaranteed coverage and insurance market reforms
    Few would argue with such provisions. The health insurance industry has been such a Wild West that companies could promise anything and provide nothing. They suffered no bad consequences when they blatantly breached contracts with subscribers. Other than enforcement, there would be no cost to taxpayers.
    Essential benefits
    An independent committee would define an “essential benefit package” as a minimum quality standard. It would include preventive services with no co-pays or deductibles, mental health services, and oral health and vision for children. It would cap the amount that consumers have to spend per year, and cost taxpayers nothing. Insurance companies could add features to this basic package. Now they can get away with not paying for basic services because most people do not have a choice of plans, and insurance plans are far too complicated to easily compare.
    Individual responsibility
    It is time for the government to be honest about the lifestyle factors that cause many of our healthcare problems. According to an article at preventdisease.com that is based on research reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, “preventable illness makes up approximately 80% of the burden of illness and 90% of all healthcare costs,” and “preventable illnesses account for eight of the nine leading categories of death.” This is the single most important factor in lowering healthcare costs and making people healthier. But in most ways it is not a role for government. It is up to individuals to change their habits. However, the federal government certainly shouldn’t be making the situation worse. That means telling the truth about the fast food and prepared food industries. And it means requiring that government agencies and contractors use part-time and telecommuting work arrangements so people have time to exercise and prepare food at home. A national campaign aimed at employers, encouraging them to use flexible schedules for workers, such as part-time and telecommuting, could do a lot of good, with the government itself taking the lead. Cost to taxpayers: nothing. In fact, there are potentially huge savings in lowered healthcare costs.
    Pushing for results
    It is time for ratings. Netflix movies are rated. EBay sellers are rated. This is established technology. It is time for a central web site that shows us ratings for healthcare providers. Some sites do this now, but there are too many with too few ratings and it is chaotic. An insurance company doing ratings of its providers is not an unbiased source. How good is that doctor / hospital / radiology lab anyhow? How effective? How organized? How long a wait? How polite? How accurate a bill? This costs little and offers so much in savings and making healthcare very effective quickly. No more money is wasted on ineffective providers. People get well much sooner. Providers change their methods to get better ratings. Cost to taxpayers: very little. Such a site would also reveal the really bad eggs . . . moving on to . . .
    Making sure healthcare providers really do their job
    States are supposed to enforce this now, but often don’t. According to a press release from Public Citizen’s Sidney Wolfe, MD, “Most state medical boards are doing a dangerously lax job in enforcing their state medical practice acts and adequately disciplining physicians.” In another article, Dr. Wolfe said that from 1990 to 2002, just five percent of U.S. physicians caused 54 percent of the nation’s malpractice lawsuit payments, basing his numbers on information from the National Practitioner Data Bank. A constant stream of reports show that hospitals are covering up mistakes. If states were doing their job, there would be little or no malpractice lawsuits. This is far more important than tort reform. With ratings, state regulators, properly funded and monitored, could spot and check on providers who are doing a poor job before they do something really really wrong. Such a practice would eliminate payments to incompetent providers and lower malpractice cost. Cost to taxpayers: very little.
    Emphasizing primary care
    Healthcare reform needs to enhance the partnership between patient and primary care doctor. The primary care doctor is the one who needs to be on top of what is happening with a patient, with whatever record-keeping system works best for him or her (usually a hybrid of paper and database. All-electronic record-keeping is not reliable yet). Primary care doctors need to be paid as much or more than specialists and be paid for phone call and record-keeping time instead of just doctor visit time. Many doctors are forced to use a more expensive visit when a phone call will do because they don’t get paid for phone time. Cost to taxpayers: nothing
    Looking close at hospitals
    Hospitals need to be very closely audited. Not only are there often bogus charges on bills, but the charges are far far beyond costs. No one really checks this, so they keep doing it. Employees wander around hospitals that don’t seem to be doing anything. Hospitals charge for unnecessary tests, with no one making sure that tests are based on research. Anyone who complains is ignored. Medical institutions are roach motels for our hard-earned dollars. Dollars check in but they don’t check out. Cost to taxpayers: very little.
    A simple little thing
    Refrigerator magnets can save millions. Yes, you read that right. A magnet can list the phone numbers, hours, and locations of urgent care centers that can be used during weekends and evenings instead of much more expensive emergency rooms. We now waste millions on non-emergency problems being treated in emergency rooms simply because people don’t know where else to go. Cost to taxpayers: very little.
    Another simple little thing
    Money is wasted on mailed Explanation of Benefits forms from insurance companies when this information could be provided for free via a secured web site. Cost to taxpayers: nothing.
    These no- or low-cost changes would greatly improve care and save millions. They are the first step. There is no reason to delay them in order to get a “comprehensive” healthcare reform. No reform can possibly work without them in place first.
    Patty Zevallos
    media producer – web, video, print

  4. We are headed for Socialism.. or maybe we are there already, this is terrible and I HATE the idea of my medical records being ona Dr’s laptop and the inevitable that will report it as being stolen, hey folks is this going to be any different then what we have with our Credit Files how many of you out there have had this issue? Now you can add your medical records to the list of stolen information.

  5. Am against the health-technology part of the stimulus plan. I do not want my healthcare records available to anyone but my healthcare provider. Do not want the goverment telling my doctor what treatments are available to me. People think they have it bad now. Wait until the government becomes more involved. Why do you think people from other countries come to the U.S. for medical treatment. Anything the government gets involved in is a catastrophe. If this part of the stimulus package does pass, then as yourself why our congressmen and women do not want anypart of it for themselves or their families.

  6. Now that we have come to the realization that WE all cannot afford our current level of healthcare (latest innovations, treatments, medications, surgical technology, imaging, etc, etc), let’s roll back to the care of the 1960’s which is about the same level of pay that most hard working physicians are making these days. When is the last time you wanted to roll back your salary to what was made over 40 years ago? The healthcare pie has been taken by middle men administrators and regulators. Too much fat in the system and we need to trim it off.

  7. New Healthcare by the government:
    ” Seniors should be more accepting of the conditions that come with age instead of treating them. That means the elderly will bear the brunt.
    Medicare now pays for treatments deemed safe and effective. The stimulus bill would change that and apply a cost- effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council.
    Hospitals and doctors that are not “meaningful users” of the new system will face penalties.”

    We as a country cannot afford the “stimulus bill”
    We need to stand up against what will cause our country’s downfall.
    Do you recall the Boston Tea Party? Over the years, the Boston Tea Party has become a symbol of rebellion against the establishment. It is now time to “rebel” against the largest redistribution of wealth in our country’s history.
    It is time to send a tea bag or an “e-tea” message to Washington, D.C.and let them know they ARE NOT REPRESENTING US!

  9. I am out of work, paying $990 a month for my families health insurance (and a poor plan at that), and REALLY need assistance right NOW. Who do I talk to about applying? What might I get? And When?
    I am using credit cards to live on after being out of work for almost a year.

  10. “What we’re seeing is disappointing,” said Mr. Boehner (R Ohio) . The package, he said, “appears to be grounded in the flawed notion that we can simply borrow and spend our way back to prosperity.”
    The “flawed notion” that has “grounded” Republicans (and this mess of an economy) since Reagan. What is this, a sudden epiphany by Republicans? Maybe they’d like to include a few taxes to pay for all of this then?