I hate to call prospective (prospecting?) GOP Senate candidate Annette Bosworth a red-state moocher. I'm willing to embrace the idea that she became the first physician in South Dakota to meet new federal standards for the use of electronic health records because she truly and correctly believes that EHRs improve service for patients.
But we must recognize that part of the reason Bosworth got ahead of the curve on health technology was the federal gold that President Barack Obama put in them thar EHRs via his stimulus law, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Tucked into that big bill was the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act. Under the HITECH Act, doctors who adopt EHRs and meet the federal "meaningful use" criteria by 2016 can get $44K from Medicare or $64K through Medicaid. Dawdlers who don't adopt EHRs face penalties
South Dakota's Medicaid program has proudly issued over $16 million in federal EHR incentive payments. Dr. Bosworth makes clear that she wouldn't have been able to fully implement EHRs and qualify for these incentives without more federal help:
According to Dr. Bosworth, HealthPOINT's services were crucial to getting the office prepared to attest to meaningful use. "When we first decided to attest to meaningful use, I thought we were ready. But there were so many little roadblocks and issues. Nothing major, but just things we wouldn't have known how to figure out without an expert" [Jeff Pickett, "Physician first in SD to be federally validated as meaningful user," DSUNews.com, 2011.12.20].
HealthPoint, as you may recall, is the Extension-like service created at Dakota State University to help South Dakota doctors implement EHRs. That "crucial" service exists thanks to over $6 million in stimulus money from the Obama Administration. Similar services across the country have been helping thousands of doctors literally get with the program.
As with so many other sensible health care ideas, the U.S. still lags behind other countries in EHR adoption. But we're catching up thanks to the 2009 stimulus and the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
If Dr. Bosworth is an honest campaigner, she'll have to forgo her Republican Party's usual line that federal dollars are the root of all evil and admit that her success depends in part on the sensible health care policies of the Obama Administration. Honest campaigning like that might keep her from sounding like just another hypocritical red-state moocher.