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Where's the parity? EMR and ARRA

March 25, 2009
by Terry L. Stawar, Ed.D.
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Yesterday I was able to talk to Kenton Wooden, Regional Director for U.S. Senator Evan Bayh (D, IN) about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in regard to potentially providing funding for Electronic Medical Record systems for behavioral health organizations. 

He said “Unfortunately right now things are still a bit vague because there is no Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Secretary and department have 90 days after the ARRA was signed into law to break down exactly how grants and funds will be given and to whom they will go.” Evidently the spending plan is currently being written and there is some possibility it could be stretched to allow such expenditures. The new secretary may have a lot of discretion on this matter.

He strongly suggests partnering with states and national associations to urge the secretary to include behavioral healthcare.

This is a tremendous opportunity to advances the technological infrastructure of the nation’s behavioral healthcare system. It would be tragic for behavioral healthcare to have come this far, after the insurance parity victory, only to be excluded from ARRA .

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Inclusion requires participation and advocacy. Let's face it, the medical community is focused, well-financed and is always first to take a seat the "table". When one thinks of medical advocacy and representation, big-brand names like the AMA stand-out. Payers of all kinds know that medical/surgical spending accounts for 9/10 of healthcare costs. Behavioral health on the other hand suffers from self-inflicted fragmentation among its own professional ranks and representation, poor funding for its lobbying efforts, and poor understanding of how the larger healthcare system truly works (policy, financing, business models, etc.) Finally, the fact that MH and SA account for such a small slice of the cost pie, payers regularly overlook behavioral health when big plans are drawn up and when big decisions are made.

It is a shame that behavioral health hasn't been able to pull all the threads together and create a single, strong voice for the field and its consumers. We live in an era of terrible fragmentation. Being fragmented ourselves is of no value. This is about cooperation, advocacy and participation. Not unlike making the transition from the "kids' table" to the "adult table".

Terry Stawar

President/CEO (LifeSpring, Inc.)

Terry Stawar

@tstawar

planetterry.wordpress.com

Terry L. Stawar, EdD, is President and CEO of LifeSpring Health Systems, a community behavioral...