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White House announces $1B in grants for health IT

WASHINGTON - Members of President Barack Obama's cabinet announced nearly $1 billion in grants Friday to increase the use of health information technology, pushing a key component of Obama's health care overhaul and job creation plans.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced nearly $1 billion in federal economic stimulus funds.

The money will be used to help make health care information technology available to over 100,000 hospitals and primary care physicians by 2014 and train thousands of people for careers in health care and information technology.

Sebelius announced more than $750 million in awards for states and health care providers. Solis announced more than $225 million in grants that will be used to train 15,000 people in job skills needed to support careers in health care, information technology and other high growth fields. The White House said grant recipients had identified about 10,000 openings for skilled workers likely to become available in the next two years.

New York won three awards totaling $52 million. The New York eHealth Collaborative Inc., a public-private group focused on health IT, won two grants: $22.4 million for a health information exchange and $26.5 million for a regional extension center to help health professionals with IT. And the Hudson Valley Community College won $3.4 million to provide job training.

Obama's push to overhaul the $2.5 billion U.S. health care system has foundered since Democrats lost a crucial seat in the Senate in a special election in Massachusetts last month.

The White House has pivoted away from health care to focus on job creation since that vote, mindful that the country's relatively high unemployment rate is a major concern for Americans. Friday's announcement is one of a series on job creation.

Republicans, united against Democrats' reform plans, say they want Obama and his fellow Democrats to give up on bills reached last year after months of work, but the White House says it does not intend to do so.

The administration has contended that boosting the use of information technology in health care can help control skyrocketing costs, a central theme of the health overhaul push.

The push for wider use of technology in health care could affect a range of companies, including Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., McKesson Corp. and Allscripts Misys Healthcare Solutions Inc. With Tom Brune

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