Trump's budget guts ONC even deeper than it seemed

Health IT agency will run on a lot less cash and without a slate of operating units.
By Tom Sullivan
12:12 PM
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Donald Rucker national coordinator ONC

ONC national coordinator Donald Rucker, MD

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 slashes annual funding for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT by nearly 40 percent and ONC head Donald Rucker, MD, has outlined exactly what will be eliminated.

It’s a lot.

Comparing the President’s proposal to Rucker’s budget justification document shows that conservatives will likely appreciate the spending cuts, while health IT proponents will find them troubling for the advancement of many ONC-led initiatives. 

[Also: Trade groups pan Trump's cuts to health IT]

Trump’s document, for instance, stated that the top priority areas for ONC’s Health Information Technology Advisory Committee are data interoperability, EHR usability, privacy and security of health information and secure access.

Rucker’s so-called budget justification, on the other hand, would slash key programs involved in carrying out Trump’s priorities.

For starters, the Health IT Adoption unit will close out in 2018, Rucker said, and ONC will reallocate some of those resources to the Standards, Interoperability and Certification program which, even still, will have $3.5 million less than it did last year.

Rucker said that the Office of the Chief Privacy Officer, the Office of Care Transformation, and the Office of Clinical Quality and Safety will also close out in 2018 and their work will fall under the Health IT Policy and Governance program.

The Consumer eHealth and Provider Adoption Support teams will also close out in 2018 with some resources going into Agency Wide Support, which itself will operate on $8.3 million less than it did for 2017.

“ONC has been actively working to reduce agency-wide support costs and will continue to realize savings from improved efficiencies, realigning full-time employees, and in-sourcing,” Rucker wrote.

What’s more, in addition to its traditional work, ONC will face some sizable new legislated priorities in the immediate future.

“ONC will focus on supporting interoperability by establishing consensus around standards development activities and policies related to HIE, the Cures Act, and MACRA,” Rucker wrote.

Just because ONC is closing so many programs doesn’t mean that it will abandon its work. It will just be more challenging.

Twitter: SullyHIT
Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com


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