ABA Health eSource
May 2009 Volume 5 Number 9

Chair's Column
by Vickie Yates Brown, Frost Brown Todd LLC, Louisville, KY

Vickie Yates BrownThe American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more commonly referred to as the “Stimulus Package,” seems to find its way into almost every conversation I have or meeting I attend. As details surface regarding stimulus particulars, its impact becomes more and more illusive. However, it is clear one significant component, the area of health informatics, will result in funding and have substantial impact. In this regard, we stand at a very important juncture: this impact can be especially constructive and beneficial to every American’s health or it can serve as little more than a maneuver to ration healthcare.

As health lawyers, we are keenly aware that “healthcare reform” has been pulled from the back burner to center stage once again. As was the case in prior healthcare reform efforts, data collection is a central component. The ability to perform effective data collection has developed tremendously in the years following reform efforts during the 1990s. Efforts to improve the collection and effective use of data in the private sector have also continued. Today, data drives countless decisions and components in the provision of healthcare, particularly reimbursement and what is deemed quality care.

This could be a good thing, as improving healthcare is undoubtedly a commendable goal. However, my concern rests in the reality that we are quickly approaching an important crossroad in the payment of healthcare, which will ultimately affect nearly every decision relating to the provision of care.

Although Americans are frequently engaged on the subject of their ability to access healthcare, most Americans do not realize that we stand at a crucial juncture with regard to health informatics. As health lawyers we are constantly concerned about the potential uses and disclosures of an individual’s health care information and thus work diligently each day to protect its use and disclosure. We are most likely only one of a handful of citizens that know how truly unprotected an individual’s healthcare information really is - that HIPAA is nothing more than “smoke and mirrors” aimed to assure the populace that their healthcare information is in fact protected. In reality the “permitted uses”, particularly for government entities, which are allowed without a patient’s authorization are vast.

The government has made it clear it will continue its relentless effort in data collection. This stimulus package is proof of that, particularly the huge amounts of funding being placed into comparative effectiveness funding by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Much of the stimulus funding may remain illusive for most Americans, but I do believe substantial monies will be allocated to health informatics with intentional purposes attached. It is our responsibility as knowledgeable healthcare lawyers to make certain that this effort serves the true function for which it is purported to serve: to improve the quality of care by providing patients, clinicians and others with evidence-based information to make informed decisions about healthcare. We have a duty to shed light on this effort and to inform the general public if true motives regrettably turn out to be nothing more than cost driven efforts to ration healthcare.

This issue will be at the top of the Council’s agenda when we convene in Louisville, Kentucky for our spring council meeting as we continue to evaluate pertinent aspects of current health law issues, particularly the issue of access to healthcare. I am looking forward to entertaining members of the Council in my hometown and showing off the city during one of the most beautiful times to be in Kentucky – Louisville’s two week Kentucky Derby Festival. We’ve arranged for the Council to attend opening day at Churchill Downs, which signals the beginning of horse racing season in our city. As the bugler sounds the “Call to the Post” for the day’s feature race, we will enjoy a Mint Julep, which has been the traditional beverage of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby for more than a century. Below I’ve shared the recipe for this beloved Kentucky tradition and hope you’ll take the time to enjoy one of your own on that first Saturday in May for the most exciting two minutes in sports – the 132 nd running of the Kentucky Derby. Enjoy!

The Early Times Mint Julep Recipe
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sprigs of fresh mint
  • Crushed ice
  • Early Times Kentucky Whisky
  • Silver Julep Cups

Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

The best times are enjoyed responsibly.
Early Times Distillery Co., Kentucky Whisky. 40% Alc. By Volume. Louisville, KY ©2006.

Source: http://www.kentuckyderby.com/2006/derby_experience/mint_julep.html

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