WASHINGTON Members of President Barack Obama's Cabinet announced nearly $1 billion in grants on Friday to increase the use of health information technology, pushing a key component of Obama's healthcare overhaul and job creation plans.
U.S. 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 healthcare information technology available to over 100,000 hospitals and primary care physicians by 2014 and train thousands of people for careers in healthcare and information technology.
Sebelius announced more than $750 million in awards for states and healthcare providers.
Solis announced more than $225 million in Department of Labor grant awards that will be used to train 15,000 people in job skills needed to support careers in healthcare, 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 within the next two years.
Obama's push to overhaul the $2.5 billion U.S. healthcare system has foundered since Democrats lost a crucial seat, and effective control, in the U.S. Senate in a special election in Massachusetts last month.
The White House has pivoted away from healthcare 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, who are united in their opposition to 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 healthcare can help control skyrocketing costs, a central theme of the health overhaul push.
The push for wider use of technology in healthcare could affect a range of companies, including Microsoft Corp, Google Inc, McKesson Corp and Allscripts Misys Healthcare Solutions Inc.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, editing by Anthony Boadle)