Biden outlines health IT funding priorities
The Biden administration this past Friday released a letter outlining President Joe Biden's request for fiscal year 2022 discretionary funding in advance of Congress's annual appropriations and budget process.
The letter, addressed to Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, along with several other top federal lawmakers, includes a range of proposals that reflect Biden's broader agenda.
"The consequences of this broad disinvestment are plain to see. We know that anticipating, preparing for, and fighting a global pandemic requires a robust public health infrastructure. Yet, going into the COVID-19 pandemic, funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was 10 percent lower than a decade ago, adjusted for inflation," wrote Shalanda D. Young, acting director of the Office of Budget and Management.
"The President believes now is the time to begin reversing this trend – and the expiration of nearly a decade of budget caps presents a unique opportunity to do so," Young added.
WHY IT MATTERS
The request includes several items aimed at improving the nation's digital health response, including $8.7 billion to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That additional funding would go toward modernizing public health data collection nationwide, in addition to supporting core public health capacity improvements in states and territories, training new epidemiologists and other public health experts, and building international capacity to detect, prepare for and respond to emerging global threats, according to the letter.
In addition, $153 million would go toward CDC's Social Determinants of Health Program to support states and territories in improving health equity and data collection for vulnerable populations.
The request also includes a $6.5 billion investment to launch the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, aimed at driving transformational innovation in health research and speeding implementation of health breakthroughs.
In addition, the request would provide $65 million over the 2021 enacted level for the Rural e-Connectivity Program "reconnect" for rural broadband.
"High-speed internet would serve as an economic equalizer for rural America, while the work of installing broadband would create high-paying union jobs with benefits in rural communities," reads Young's letter.
The wish list also includes $39 million for advanced communications research at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, "which would support the development and deployment of broadband and 5G technologies by identifying innovative approaches to spectrum sharing."
Some $916 million would go toward expanding scientific and technological research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, including biotechnology, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity advancement.
Speaking of cybersecurity, the request provides $2.1 billion for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, $20 million for a new Cyber Response and Recovery Fund and $500 million for the Technology Modernization Fund.
"The COVID-19 pandemic and the significant cyber incident impacting agencies through products such as SolarWinds continue to highlight the urgent need to modernize Federal technology, with particular emphasis on mission-essential systems and citizen-facing digital services," read the letter.
The request includes $4.8 billion in total resources for the Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Information Technology, with $2.7 billion for continued modernization of the VA's electronic health record program.
THE LARGER TREND
The passage of the American Rescue Plan this past month gave a preview of potential priorities under a new president and Congress, with hundreds of millions of dollars made available for public health data modernization and telehealth capacity increases in rural areas.
ON THE RECORD
"This moment of crisis is also a moment of possibility," wrote Young.
"Together, America has a chance not simply to go back to the way things were before the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn struck, but to begin building a better, stronger, more secure, more inclusive America," she continued.