HHS health IT office baseline gets a boost while stimulus funds trickle to a halt

The flow of stimulus dollars to the Health and Human Services Department’s health information technology office would end in fiscal 2013, under the president’s budget request of Feb. 13.

At the same time, baseline support for the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT for advancing health IT exchanges and solutions would receive a small increase.

The health IT national coordinator’s office baseline funding is slated for $66 million under the budget proposal, up from $61 million in the current year.

That amount will pay for “grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements for the development and advancement of interoperable health IT,” the budget appendix states.

At the same time, the national coordinator office’s influx of Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding is trickling to a halt, from $157 million in fiscal 2011, to $5 million in the current year, to zero next year, the budget document shows.

The stimulus dollars were being used to encourage doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic health record systems. The coordinator’s office was established under the 2009 stimulus law to coordinate more than $20 billion in such payments.

Under the Recovery Act, the national coordinator and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services anticipate that 80,000 providers will have received payments by Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2012, according to an article in GovHealthIT.com.

As of January, about 60,000 physicians and hospitals had purchased eligible digital health record systems, while 5,000 had met the “meaningful use” standard of being ready to participate in health information exchange, GovHealthIT.com said.

Overall, HHS’ discretionary budget would remain nearly flat under the president’s proposal, at $76.4 billion, up from $76.2 billion currently.

That represents only about 8 percent of the total outlay of $941 billion for the department. Most of that is for Medicare and Medicaid entitlement and benefit programs.

The Food and Drug Administration’s budget would be hiked to $4.5 billion for food and drug safety programs, up from $3.8 billion currently, while CMS’ budget would be raised by $993 million, in part to support implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration would be reduced to $3.2 billion, down from $3.3 billion.





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