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Healthcare to Get Billions Under New Stimulus Plan

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Authored by Jon Mercer in Economy, Health 
Published on 02-05-2009

Congress is debating President Obama’s new stimulus plan that would provide billions in healthcare benefits, propping up Medicaid, the government’s health insurance plan for the poor, and pushing hospitals and doctors to move records from paper to computers. The House of Representative’s version of the plan will allow for $825 billion in emergency spending and tax cuts, yet the Senate’s plan is even more robust with a healthy $887 billion for the same benefits.

At least $100 billion would go to healthcare if the proposals pass legislation. This would strengthen the unemployment benefits of millions and help set right the crippled U.S. healthcare system. The money would also provide a serious kick to our staggered economy. The plan includes $87 million increases in Medicaid and the joint State and Federal healthcare plans for the poor.

The plan will also include $25 billion to COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which allows workers who lose their jobs to keep their health insurance. The Plan will also provide $17.9 billion for health information technology such as electronic medical records and electronic prescribing. There is a $1.1 billion provision for the study of comparative effectiveness of various medical tests and treatments, and a $1.3 billion provision for Transitional Medical Assistance.

Whitehouse officials say that the plan is on track and that a full report on the plan would take some time because of the complexities involved. Key lawmakers are expected to meet with President Obama next week to discuss the plan in detail and evaluate the use of government funds in the proposal.

The Democratic-led proposal would allow the government to pay sixty-five percent of all COBRA premiums for people who lost their jobs after September 2008. In a report released last week, the Commonwealth Fund found that only nine percent of those who are eligible for COBRA had actually signed up for it; mostly because it is so expensive.

Also Medicaid patients will get a bonus of eighty percent off their healthcare costs. Medicaid clients will also get other bonuses which have not yet been calculated. A similar plan would also apply to Medicare patients, the insurance plan for the elderly. The Transitional Medical Assistance Program would give welfare recipients a little extra time on Medicaid, even after they start earning too much to qualify for the program.

Officials are hopeful that the plan will be approved and up and running by the first of March and that the bill will be beneficial to the economy by producing more jobs in the healthcare field.

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