About legislation (H.R. 1):
President Obama signed the American Recovery and Economic Reinvestment Act into law on Feb 17. The bill, commonly referred to as the economic stimulus package, contains more than $787 billion in federal spending. These funds go to a variety of programs, including health care. Here is a look at how health care stimulus funds are allocated:
Health information technology (IT) allows medical records to be stored electronically and transmitted through an interoperable IT network. Health IT will require funds to initialize, but is expected to save lives and cut costs once it's fully implemented. The stimulus package allocates money to two parts of health IT:
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), signed into law in 1996, lays out protections for the privacy and confidentiality of personal health information. Amended in 2005, HIPAA includes rules for who can have access to an individual's health information, how such information can be accessed and how the information can be used. The stimulus package tweaks HIPAA to tighten privacy requirements, strengthen consumers' roles in deciding who can access information about pre-existing conditions and restrict the sale of health information.
Medicare and Medicaid are the two main federal health insurance programs. Medicare is operated by the federal government and serves people 65 and older, as well as people with disabilities. Medicaid is operated by each state and serves people with low incomes and people with disabilities. The stimulus package puts off some scheduled cuts to Medicare and increases the amount of money the federal government pays to the states to operate Medicaid. In order to get some of this additional $680 million in Medicaid funds, states must agree to promptly reimburse providers, with 99 percent of claims handled within 90 days of receipt. The stimulus bill also extends Medicaid coverage for transition periods in which a beneficiary might be dropped due to increased income level.
The stimulus package increases federal spending on several health care programs: