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Stimulus vs. "Stimulus"

by Demian Brady / /

I often refer to the stimulus bill with ironic quotation marks, as in, “stimulus.” This is because I didn’t think the plan would work as intended. Also, the package was sold as being “temporary, timely, and targeted” but a lot of the spending failed to meet that criteria. More evidence of that continues to roll in.

This week it was reported that 45 percent of the Department of Energy’s $35 billion in stimulus funds remain unspent.  So much for “timely” spending. (It appears that some Energy stimulus was “targeted” to Solyndra, but that didn’t really work out so well.)

A second article caught my eye this week highlighting yet another program that fails the ‘temporary” test. The “stimulus” bill included a $548 million state grant program to develop health information exchange systems. These systems would enable health care providers to share patient information with the goal of improving general health care and reducing duplication of prescriptions and tests. But now many states are wondering how they will continue to fund the program once the “stimulus” grant expires in 2015.

Unless more federal manna flows down from on high, the states will have to charge somebody for use of the networks. But would providers be willing to pay? Julia Adler-Milstein, assistant professor at the school of information and the school of public health at the University of Michigan, has conducted evaluations of the program in several states. She told the Center for Public Integrity, “We’re not really clear who health information exchanges are creating value for. Lots think it’s the patients, but at the end of the day I think we haven’t convinced anyone that health information exchanges are creating value for anyone.”

That’s “stimulus” for you.