Posts Tagged ‘Tom Vilsack’

HHS Provides Funding to Improve Rural Healthcare IT

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius awarded as much as $137 million, to the states funded in part by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with the goal of strengthening the public health infrastructure and provide jobs in core areas of public health.  Awarded in almost all 50 states, the grants enhance state, tribal, local and territorial efforts to provide tobacco cessation services, reinforce public health laboratory and immunization services, prevent healthcare-associated infections, and provide comprehensive substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.  “More than ever, it is important to help states fight disease and protect public health,” Sebelius said.  “These awards are an important investment and will enable states and communities to help Americans quit smoking, get immunized and prevent disease and illness before they start.”

The grants will fund vital state and local public health programs supported through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  The majority of grant dollars come from the Prevention and Public Health Fund section of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  SAMHSA dollars add to this investment.  “CDC supports state and local public health departments which are key to keeping America safe from threats to health, safety, and security from this country or anywhere in the world,” said CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden.  “With these funds, CDC is strengthening our ability to prevent and combat diseases and keep Americans safe against expensive and dangerous health threats.”

“These funds will allow us to bolster public health services to communities and build on successful programs that have helped people lead healthier lives.  Today’s investments will help us prevent future healthcare costs from problems such as tobacco-related illness and substance abuse,” said Pamela Hyde, SAMHSA administrator.

According to Rene Letourneau, Managing Editor of Healthcare Finance News, “The grants include $1 million to further enhance the nations’ public health laboratories by hiring and preparing scientists for careers in public health laboratories, providing training for scientists and supporting public health initiatives related to infectious disease research; nearly $5 million to help states and territories enhance and expand the national network of tobacco cessation toll-free quit lines to increase the number of tobacco users who quit; More than $42 million to support improvements to the Immunization Information Systems (registries) and other immunization information technologies; development of systems to improve billing for immunization services; planning and implementation of adult immunization programs; enhancement of vaccination capacity located in schools; and evaluations of the impact on disease of recent vaccine recommendations for children and adolescents; and $2.6 million to the Emerging Infections Programs around the country to continue improvement in disease monitoring, professional development and training, information technology development and laboratory capacity,” to name a few.

In a related initiative, President Obama recently announced that new healthcare IT jobs are part of his Jobs Initiatives for Rural America at the recent White House Rural Economic Forum held in Peosta, IA.  The plan includes making HHS loans available to assist more than 1,300 Critical Access Hospitals recruit supplementary staff, and help rural hospitals purchase software and hardware to implement healthcare IT.

“These are tough times for a lot of Americans – including those who live in our rural communities,” Obama said.  “That’s why my administration has put a special focus on helping rural families find jobs, grow their businesses, and regain a sense of economic security.”

“Creating jobs and economic opportunity in rural America is a priority for the Obama Administration, and the White House Rural Council has used an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to leverage resources across the federal government to achieve that goal,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By bringing new capital, job training, and additional investments to our rural communities, we are working to ensure the people who live in these towns have a better, brighter future.”

“The Small Business Administration (SBA) is pleased to announce that we will be doubling the capital going to rural businesses through the Small Business Investment Company program, with no cost to taxpayers,” said Administrator Karen Mills.  “Small businesses of all kinds are thriving in rural areas where they are creating jobs of the future and helping ensure the economic stability of the middle class.  Half the people who work in America either own or work for a small business, and two out of three new private sector jobs are created by small businesses.  The Obama Administration and SBA have been committed to supporting rural businesses, which drive economic growth across the country and will continue to do so through these programs.”

“Creating jobs and economic opportunity in rural America is a priority for the Obama Administration, and the White House Rural Council has used an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to leverage resources across the federal government to achieve that goal,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By bringing new capital, job training, and additional investments to our rural communities, we are working to ensure the people who live in these towns have a better, brighter future.”

“The Small Business Administration (SBA) is pleased to announce that we will be doubling the capital going to rural businesses through the Small Business Investment Company program, with no cost to taxpayers,” said Administrator Karen Mills. “Small businesses of all kinds are thriving in rural areas where they are creating jobs of the future and helping ensure the economic stability of the middle class.  Half the people who work in America either own or work for a small business, and two out of three new private sector jobs are created by small businesses. The Obama Administration and SBA have been committed to supporting rural businesses, which drive economic growth across the country and will continue to do so through these programs.”

Healthcare Lobbyists Busy on Capitol Hill

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Even though the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the law of the land, the healthcare lobby is alive and well. Various federal agencies are working on full implementation of the law in 2014.  And with legislative tweaks and efforts to defund the law underway, lobbying on healthcare is ongoing.  So far, more than 180 groups have registered to continue shaping the law, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Ever since President Barack Obama began the long journey to reform, healthcare lobbyists went into high gear.  During 2009 and 2010, $1.06 billion was spent on lobbying; more than $500 million was spent lobbying the legislation in each year, according to a report from the Center for Responsive Politics. Lobbyists for 1,251 organizations worked on healthcare reform in 2009 and 2010, according to the Sunlight Foundation.  Individual lobbyists who reported working on health related legislation totaled 3,154 in 2010, with Big Pharma topping the list.  The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent $22 million and employs 52 lobbyists.  Political donors with ties to the healthcare sector raised $137 million for federal candidates in the 2010 elections.  That is $30 million less than that sector raised during the 2008 presidential race.

Barbara Kennelley, a former Congresswoman and current President and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, notes that lobbyists tried to raise an alarm among senior citizens about how the law might impact Medicare. “When the Affordable Care Act became law last March, critics predicted doom for the seniors and people with disabilities who rely on Medicare.  They said that coverage would disappear, benefits would be cut, and death panels were on their way – none of which was true.  But these lies scared many seniors about the law before it was explained to them.  Now, one year later, as the implementation of the law moves forward, Medicare is still sound – it’s stronger than it was before the law was passed – and millions of people with Medicare are benefitting from the law.”

Medicare has cracked down hard on waste, fraud, and abuse.  The Obama administration last year recovered $4 billion in Medicare fraud.  Additionally, the Affordable Care Act provides tools to crack down even further, specifically saying that Medicare’s guaranteed benefits – hospital care, doctors’ services, home health services, drug coverage, etc. – are protected.  “Benefits are as good as ever – better, in fact, Kennelly said.  “Prescription drugs are more affordable.  This year the nearly four million beneficiaries who fall into the prescription drug ‘doughnut hole’ will receive discounts on their drugs.  These discounts will increase over the next few years until the doughnut hole is closed.”

It’s now 2011 and the lobbying is still going full steam ahead. So far this year, more than 180 firms have registered to lobby for new clients on healthcare issues, 16 of which disclosed the Affordable Care Act as a specific lobbying interest, according to Sunlight’s Lobbying Registration Tracker.

The Obama administration is frustrated that the battle against healthcare reform hasn’t ended. “There still is a lot of intentional misinformation by opponents that continues to be repeated,” said Kathleen Sebelius, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary.  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack agrees with Sebelius and believes that perceptions of the law are shifting as the benefits are implemented.  Vilsack noted that as farmers and small businesses file their 2010 tax returns, they are seeing a tax credit for small businesses of up to 35 percent for premiums paid on health insurance for employees.  “I think the acceptance of this and the awareness of this is going to grow substantially,” Vilsack said.