The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, signed by President Obama on February 17, pushes forward an abundance of health care provisions. More than $140 billion will be spent on health care, including funding to revamp the country’s health information infrastructure, stimulate medical research, and provide medical coverage for the thousands of Americans who have recently found themselves out of work and, consequently, without health insurance.

There are four major categories of government spending on health care, which include:

Health Care Coverage for Low-Income and Out of Work Americans

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), $87 billion will be spent as a temporary increase in the share of Medicaid that the Federal government will pay over nine calendar quarters (October 2008 to December 2010). As a state’s unemployment rises, the more people qualify for Medicaid and the less revenue a state has to pay for the increase in its Medicaid rolls, the CBPP report says. With this in mind, the legislation targets assistance based on a state’s unemployment rate.

Additionally, $25 billion will be spent to fund the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which provides a right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates to those employees who involuntarily become jobless.

Comparative-Effectiveness Studies
The stimulus package marks the first time that the federal government will spend sizeable amounts of money comparing the cost and effectiveness of different available medical treatments. According to WebMD $1.1 billion will be spent on these cost-effectiveness studies.

"By signing the economic stimulus package into law, President Obama has made a major investment in America’s future. The $1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research also is a major investment in ensuring quality, patient-centered health care in this country,” said Dan Leonard, president of the National Pharmaceutical Council. "However, as Congress moves forward with the framework for comparative effectiveness research (CER), it is critically important that funding be targeted to improve the overall quality of patient care and that the research conducted examines all aspects of health care, including drugs, devices, and other medical treatments. Establishing an open and transparent process for the prioritization of comparative effectiveness research topics will be the next critical step toward ensuring that sound evidence leads to quality care."

It is up to the US Department of Health and Human Services to allocate this funding over several years.

Health Information Technology

The stimulus includes $19 billion in grants and incentives to switch from paper to electronic records, according to an article posted on WebMD.

This switch to electronic medical records would improve the ability for orthodontists to access patients’ medical history.


Ten billion dollars will be utilized to increase the research budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), labeled by President Obama as “the biggest increase in basic research funding” for the NIH in a USA Today article.

Complete information on the stimulus bill is available through Govtrack.