House budget backs Trump's drastic cuts to ONC
The U.S. House of Representatives revealed its budget funding proposal for 2018 and, among the deep cuts to Health and Human Services, the bill slashed the Office of the National Coordinator by about $22 million.
Page 81 of the 164-page proposal, in fact, states:
“For expenses necessary for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, including 13 grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements for the development and advancement of interoperable health information technology, $38,381,000.”
While the House Appropriations Committee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education proposal did not layout specifics regarding how ONC should allocate the $38 million, President Trump’s budget ranked the office’s priorities are health information interoperability, EHR usability and solving the matter of information blocking.
Trump also noted that ONC should focus on policy and standards coordination as mandated by the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act.
National Coordinator Donald Rucker, MD, was asked during a press call on Tuesday whether ONC will have enough funding to deliver on Trump’s budget and the 21st Century Cures Act.
The Cures Act also consolidated Health IT Policy and Health IT Standards committees into the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee and Trump’s plan calls for reducing funding for Consumer e-Health programs, the National Learning Consortium,
“We think we do,” Rucker answered. “Some of this we’re not actually legally able to work on until Congress’ handing of the budget.”
Rucker added that ONC will also be working with other agencies, notably the Office of the Inspector General on data blocking and CMS on relevant HITECH, MACRA and MIPS provisions.
The House budget proposal allotted more funding for specific areas than Trump’s proposal, namely the $77.6 billion to HHS, which is some $14.5 billion higher than Trump’s request. It also includes more for the National Institutes of Health and $1 billion Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Budget proposals, it’s worth noting, are just that: recommendations rather final legislation. So while the House and Trump agree on ONC’s allocation as of now, these negotiations tend to be complex drawn-out affairs and pieces may or may not change by the time Congress finalizes the new budget, which is slated to take effect Oct. 1, 2018.