Stimulus Law Funds Health Care
The $787 billion stimulus package that President Barack Obama signed into law today contains several measures that will give unemployed and low-income people greater access to health care, as well as fund diabetes research and prevention programs.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Obama signed in Denver, promises to create more jobs, offer tax breaks, and fund programs to help get the struggling American economy back on its feet.
Obama called the law "the most sweeping economic recovery package in our history." He added that "7 million Americans who lost their health care along with their jobs will continue to get the coverage they need, and roughly 20 million more can breathe a little easier, knowing that their health care won't be cut due to a state budget shortfall."
Here are key areas of the law that will affect people with diabetes:
The law lets laid-off workers and their families continue their formerly employer-provided health coverage for up to 18 months, with the government subsidizing 65 percent of the cost for up to nine months. The COBRA extension is limited to workers laid off between Sept. 1, 2008, and the end of this year. People with diabetes who lose their jobs often turn to insurance under COBRA. Many people with diabetes would otherwise be denied coverage by private insurers-and many would resort to going without health insurance altogether.
For states struggling with budget shortfalls, the law earmarks $87 billion in federal funds over the next two years to support state Medicaid programs. More than a million people are at risk of losing their Medicaid benefits-and with many enrollees being treated for diabetes or pre-diabetes, the coverage is necessary to pay for medications and testing supplies.
The law sets aside $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health, with $8.2 billion earmarked specifically for research. It's still unclear how much of that money would go toward diabetes research, but George Huntley, chairman of the American Diabetes Association board, called the funds "essential to finding a cure for diabetes and, until then, making progress on important treatment and prevention programs."
The law includes $1 billion for a Prevention and Wellness Fund to be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services-$400 million of which will go to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with other funds going to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies. With 57 million Americans already battling pre-diabetes, the American Diabetes Association has long advocated for wellness and prevention programs to help stem the tide of diabetes.
The law allocates $19 billion for the adoption of health information technology systems that promise to both improve quality of care in hospitals and doctors' offices, and cut costs in the long term. Obama called the funding "an investment that will take the long overdue step of computerizing America's medical records-to reduce the duplication and waste that costs billions of health care dollars and the medical errors that every year cost thousands of lives." An additional $1.1 billion will pay for research at the NIH that will evaluate the effectiveness of existing health treatments and services.