Biden Announces $1.2 Billion Boost to Hospitals

Vice President Joe Biden was in Chicago today to announce nearly $1.2 billion in grants to help hospitals transition to electronic medical records.

"This ain't government control," Biden told more than 50 people gathered before a panel discussion at Mt. Sinai Hospital on Chicago's West Side. "We are trying to modernize. All of this sounds pretty fancy but it's about modernizing the system."

Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius detailed how that piece of the $787 billion economic stimulus plan would help Americans when they go to the hospital or their doctors. It also is a what's-in-it-for-me way for the White House to illustrate how it is spending parts of the massive amount of taxpayer dollars.

"With electronic health records, we are making health care safer, we're making it more efficient, we're making you healthier and we're saving money along the way," Biden said in remarks provided to The Associated Press ahead of delivery. "These are four necessities we need for health care in the 21st century."

Meanwhile, a top aide at the Health and Human Services Department planned to send people who signed up to receive health care communications from the administration an e-mail heralding medical information technology as a way to improve care. Jeanne Lambrew, the director of HHS' Office of Health Reform, sought to explain the spending program to anyone who has had to fill out the same form at doctor's offices over and over again.

"All that paperwork is more than just annoying. It wastes time, prevents quick and accurate diagnoses and makes our health care system less efficient," she wrote. "And it simply doesn't make sense in today's digital age."

HHS also launched an online video touting Sebelius' trip to Omaha, Neb., earlier this year to look at how one facility was using electronic records.

"Electronic health records can help reduce medical errors, make health care more efficient and improve the quality of medical care for all Americans," Sebelius said in her remarks prepared for Chicago. "These grants will help ensure more doctors and hospitals have the tools they need to use this critical technology."

Of the money set aside, $589 million would establish centers to help hospitals and clinics with technical aspects of choosing systems for electronic health records. Another $564 million would be set aside to help hospitals share patients' information with each other.

The grants are not be available until Oct. 1, when the new federal fiscal year begins.

Sebelius, whose father was governor of Ohio, plans to visit Ohio State University Medical Center on Friday to discuss electronic medical records there.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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