HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer said Wednesday that Republican budget crafters are making a bad decision by turning away $35 million in federal money that Montana would give hospitals for modernizing medical records – and didn’t rule out a veto of the Republican budget package.
The Democratic governor said the money would create jobs and make health care more efficient by creating electronic medical records that would reduce duplicative procedures and speed service. Republicans counter that electronic medical records are untested and could create privacy leaks as everyone from hospital administrators to insurance companies could tap into medical histories.
Schweitzer highlighted the difference during a news conference Wednesday. He said it was one of only many issues he has with the spending package – but did not detail the other issues. He did not rule out a veto of the Republican spending bill.
Republicans advanced a budget out of the House earlier this week that reduced spending by about 5 percent. It spurns more than $120 million in federal money, largely for health care and the needy. It hits the Senate later this week and is not likely to be finalized until later next month.
The governor said it makes no sense for Montana to turn away the federal money because it will just be reallocated to other states and won’t reduce the federal deficit at all.
“We get less, and they get more,” Schweitzer said.
Republican leaders have said that turning away the federal money sends a signal, especially if other states do the same. And they point out that the federal government may be giving money to start the program but could eventually require the states to maintain it.
Rep. Don Roberts, a Billings Republican and oral surgeon, said many doctors are skeptical of the plan to create electronic medical records available to all hospitals. Roberts said patient privacy could be compromised with so many having such easy access to the information.