Treasury Moves to Restrict Lobbyists From Influencing Bailout Program

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner issued new guidelines yesterday aimed at eliminating the influence of lobbyists on the $700 billion financial bailout program by restricting their contact with officials who are reviewing applications for money and deciding how to disburse it.
Treasury officials also will seek to limit political influence over the funds, saying they will use similar restrictions that forbid such influence in tax matters as a model. The department’s Office of Financial Stability will be required to certify to Congress that each government investment is based solely on objective criteria. As part of that effort, only banks recommended by their primary regulator will be eligible for capital investments.
“American taxpayers deserve to know that their money is spent in the most effective way to stabilize the financial system,” Geithner said in a statement yesterday. “Today’s actions reaffirm our commitment toward that goal.”

Treasury Moves to Restrict Lobbyists From Influencing Bailout Program

Will we see the same kind of problems the Treasury Dept has had when HHS allocates the 20 Billion in funds for HIT? Will HHS limit the massive health industry’s lobbyists influence over how HIT funds are spent? Will HHS turn to real consumer coalitions like the Coalition for Patient Privacy for guidance instead of faux consumer, industry-funded trade organizations?

The dominant HIT industry lobby wants to ensure that Americans get primitive, legacy HIT products and systems, instead of innovative privacy-protective technologies.

If the stimulus dollars are used to purchase existing health IT products that don’t restore consumers’ rights to control the use and sale of personal health information, corporations will continue to “lock down” and own our personal health information. See Peter Neupert’s comments:

• Peter Neupert of Microsoft recently wrote in a TechNet blog about the health IT industry: “The thing is, nobody can make good decisions without good data,” Neupert wrote. “Unfortunately, too many in our industry use data ‘lock-in’ as a tactic to keep their customers captive. Policy makers’ myopic focus on standards and certification does little but provide good air cover for this status quo. Our fundamental first step has to be to ensure data liquidity—making it easy for the data to move around and do some good for us all.”

• The health IT industry’s ‘customers’ are the large hospital chains, health plans, labs, pharmacies, PBMs, and other health-related corporations that collect, store, handle and sell Americans’ personal health information from prescription records to DNA. They do not serve the public or have much regard for our legal and ethical rights to control personal health information.

The people who can’t make good decisions without the data are patients and doctors! We have almost no access to our own electronic health information. That’s our personal health data Neupert and Kibbe wrote about—and they make it clear that industry believes it owns our data.

The last thing Americans need is for the HIT stimulus funds be used to buy outdated, primitive technologies without meaningful or comprehensive privacy protections. That’s a prescription for waste and failure. Will the initial consumer privacy protections in the stimulus be nullified by purchases of inferior, privacy-destructive technologies?

View the Washington Post Article: Treasury Moves to Restrict Lobbyists From Influencing Bailout Program