Economic Stimulus Package Likely To Cost $850 Billion

The economic stimulus package under development by President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats likely will cost almost $850 billion, including up to $90 billion in additional federal funds for state Medicaid programs…

…In related news, privacy and civil liberties groups on Wednesday sent letters to Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Obama to encourage them to include privacy protections in any provisions in the economic stimulus package that seek to increase adoption of EHRs, CongressDaily reports. The groups — which included the American Civil Liberties Union, Consumer Action, the National Association of Social Workers and Patient Privacy Rights — said that such protections are needed to prevent unauthorized access to and sale of the medical information of patients. At a briefing on Wednesday, Ashley Katz, executive director of Patient Privacy Rights, said, “We all want to innovate and improve health care, but without privacy our system will crash as any system with a persistent and chronic virus will.”

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) have expressed support for such protections. Markey in a statement said, “Without robust safeguards, the health IT systems we are planning for today could turn the dream of integrated, seamless electronic health networks into a nightmare for consumers.”

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