Federal healthcare IT funding cut short

Federal efforts to advance healthcare IT will have to be made on half the amount President Bush hoped to get for next year.

In a heated 11th-hour compromise to create a funding package amenable to the president, healthcare IT came out short. Congress approved Wednesday $61.3 million of the president's requested $118 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

The FY08 Omnibus bill did not include a requirement for doctors participating in Medicare to use electronic health records, a request made by Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt earlier this month.

The president's original budget plan called for $22 million in healthcare IT funding be used for the federal advisory panel, the American Health Information Community (AHIC), responsible for encouraging healthcare IT adoption in four breakthrough areas, including the advancement of electronic health records, consumer empowerment, chronic care management and biosurveillance.

ONC funding is also needed to establish a "Partnership for Health and Care Improvement" as a successor to AHIC, to carry on healthcare IT advancement into the next administration, HHS said.

Leavitt announced in October that HHS plans soon to launch a widespread demonstration project rewarding doctors to adopt electronic health records. HHS will recruit 1,200 doctors from 12 communities across the United States - affecting some 3.6 million patients - to participate in a five-year pilot. HHS has not yet announced details on how to apply for the demo, nor how much the incentive will be.