Understanding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: The Basics

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)1was signed by President Obama on February 17, 2009, in Denver, Colorado.  This landmark piece of legislation's stated purpose is to stimulate the economy through investments in infrastructure, unemployment benefits, transportation, education, and healthcare.  With the need to push EHR adoption being one of the few bipartisan platforms, ARRA adheres to the 2014 timelines established under President Bush when he created the Office of National Coordinator through an Executive Order (133365) in 2004.  Additionally, ARRA strengthens strategic EHR adoption by creating two new federal advisory panels – the HIT Policy Committee and HIT Standards Committee. 

Under a portion of this legislation known as the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH), ARRA effectively provides the "carrots and sticks" for providers to adopt certified EHR technology by January 1, 2015.  In addition to incentives, ARRA creates punitive consequences for non-adoption through CMS Medicare.  Moreover, commercial vendors are rolling out "performance programs" that tie incentives to measurements of quality of care, mimicking the government as it works to transform from a pay-for-service reimbursement model to pay-for-quality model or purchaser of value.  Only those with appropriate technology will thrive.  Just like HIPAA and eClaims, EHR is now legislated and automation of health care in the U.S. is imminent.   

1 H.R.1, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:h1enr.pdf, February 17, 2009.