The HHS responded to U.S. House Ways and Means health subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark's criticism of a plan to privatize the HHS health information technology panel, which Stark called "an ideological crusade" against the government and a blind-leading-the-blind approach that so far has failed to rise above private self-interests.
According to HHS spokesman Raymond Sass, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt's plan to privatize the American Health Information Community will shield it from political influences.
"As the secretary has said, a transition of the AHIC to the private sector will ensure its long-term sustainability because its work will not depend on the direction prevailing political winds are blowing or funding from Congress," Sass said in an e-mail. "The AHIC has proven to be a guiding force for health IT development and has played a key role in the harmonization of interoperability standards and certification to those standards. Developing a business model for a successor organization that can continue to function in the private sector as a strong public-private collaborative will ensure its work can continue into the future."
In his criticisms released Wednesday, Stark said that "If the private sector was interested in developing or able to promote interoperable standards for health information technology, it would have done so years ago," and that privatizing AHIC will only further delay health IT adoption and the economic and healthcare benefits that HIT adoption promises.
At Monday's AHIC meeting, Leavitt presented a timeline that calls for a final transition plan to be ready by Sept. 18. The restructured organization should begin operations in the fall, have an interim board named early next year, and have a permanent governing board in place by January 2009. -- by Andis Robeznieks