Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) had harsh criticisms for HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt's plan to privatize HHS' health information advisory group, the American Health Information Community, by January 2009.
"Secretary Leavitt wants the blind to lead the blind," said Stark, chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, in a news release. "If the private sector was interested in developing or able to promote interoperable standards for health information technology, it would have done so years agoand private companies wouldn't today be asking the government to pay for it. Self-interested private firms have and will continue to fight among themselves over specifics, further delaying the adoption of money-saving and lifesaving technologies. It is well past time for federal leadership to fix this market failure."
Neither HHS nor the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology responded to requests for comment on Stark's criticism by deadline.
In April, ONCHIT awarded three contracts of about $100,000 each to Booz Allen Hamilton, McLean, Va.; and Avalere Health and Alchemy, both based in Washington. An evaluation of the plans will be done this month, and public comment will be taken from July 2-20 to help develop a prototype that AHIC will analyze in August and September. According to the timeline Leavitt released Tuesday, a final transition plan will be presented at AHIC's Sept. 18 meeting, and the new organization will begin to operate in the fall with a permanent board selected in January 2009, an HHS news release said.
Stark was critical of the plan.
"Unfortunately, President Bush is more interested in his ideological crusade against our government than he is in promoting quality healthcare," Stark's statement said. "That's part of the reason AHIC is acting like a toothless tiger and has made little progress toward national standards. The Bush administration's desire to privatize the government's leading advisory committee on health information technology is consistent with Republican attempts to privatize Medicare. Both actions take American healthcare in the wrong direction."