Health IT Program Critic Rep. Ellmers Loses N.C. Primary

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By Alex Ruoff

June 8 — Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), a longtime critic of the federal incentive program for electronic health records, lost in her state's Republican primary June 7.

Ellmers lost the Republican primary in North Carolina to another incumbent lawmaker, Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.), who chose to run against Ellmers following a redrawing of the state's legislative districts.

Despite receiving generous donations from several major health industry groups and an endorsement from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Ellmers was outspent by Holding and opposed by several North Carolina conservative organizations that once supported her.

Ellmers, in a statement, said she lost to “special interest groups, super PACs and their deep pockets.” She also vowed to help Trump win the White House in November.

A nurse and member of House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, Ellmers has headed several health-care legislative efforts.

She reintroduced a bill in April to shorten the EHR meaningful use program's reporting period in 2016, a change she championed successfully to have regulators themselves make in 2015 after proposing legislation to do so .

The federal government has paid more than $30 billion in incentives to doctors and hospitals that adopted electronic health records through the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs, known collectively as the meaningful use program. Doctors' groups began to complain in 2014 about the program's year-long reporting period, which required them to record using their EHRs throughout the entire year.

Ellmers also has introduced a bill to direct the National Institutes of Health to develop alternatives to opioid painkillers.

Support From Health Groups

Ellmers was outspent by her opponent in the race, but received support for her re-election bid from several major health industry groups and companies, such as Walgreens, the American Podiatric Medical Association, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and McKesson.

Health professional societies and health organizations together contributed nearly $340,000 to Ellmers' re-election campaign, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Holding's campaign committee spent more than $1.4 million running against Ellmers and a slate of other candidates, according to FEC filings. He was also supported by the American Foundations Committee, a super PAC that spent nearly $113,000 on television and radio ads opposing Ellmers, according to Open Secrets, a campaign spending database.

Ellmers's committee spent roughly $1.1 million on her re-election bid and struggled to raise funds after May, according to the FEC.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Ruoff in Washington at aruoff@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kendra Casey Plank at kcasey@bna.com