Senators question HHS chief about health IT issues

The head of the Health and Human Services Department was grilled Tuesday about the swelling medical costs to citizens.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., a proponent of health information technology, pressed HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt for explanations on health IT spending in the president's fiscal 2008 budget request during Leavitt's appearance before the Senate Budget Committee.

Whitehouse argued that the proposed $118 million for the office of the national health IT coordinator is too small of an investment to significantly cut the cost of treatment, preventive care and prescriptions. He also noted that David Brailer left the job as health IT coordinator months ago and has not been replaced.

"I would like to see appointments and budget money that gets behind the needs that we have," Whitehouse said.

When he was the attorney general of Rhode Island, Whitehouse founded a public-private partnership that helped his state gain recognition as the nation's leader in using electronic prescriptions to help reduce medical errors and streamline treatment. Whitehouse said the health IT pioneers in his state are a group of physicians -- not government officials -- "who got so frustrated" that they are attempting to engineer electronic health records on their own.

Leavitt responded that there are billions of dollars being invested in health technology "throughout the economy," and the federal government's role is to monitor standards for secure, confidential and compatible e-health systems.

He said the president's health IT budget would help deploy mutually accepted public-private data standards. The money also would go toward creating a non-governmental body to advise on health IT experimental projects in U.S. communities.

Of the total $700 billion HHS is seeking, $15 million would support personalized medicine, where technology is used to coordinate new medical research with patient care.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., drew attention to the exorbitant cost of prescription drugs in the United States. "Why do we pay so much more for drugs than other countries?" he asked Leavitt. Many Americans buy drugs online from other countries because of the price discrepancies.

Leavitt said "the root" of the inequity is a trade problem that falls out of HHS' jurisdiction.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.