House OKs $111.7M for ONCHIT

Labor/HHS 2006 Appropriations Bill Conference Report

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The House approved $111.7 million to support projects backed by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) in the final version of the conference report on the Labor, Health and Education departments appropriations bill passed this week.

The House passage of the Labor/HHS bill conference report provides ONCHIT with funding shy of the $125 million President Bush requested and $16 million more than the Senate version of the bill.

This increase of the original Senate mark for ONCHIT also validates the possibility that HHS could award additional National Health Information Network (NHIN) contracts.

ONCHIT awarded four contracts Nov. 10 with a total value of $18.6 million to develop prototype national health information networks rather than the six it had originally planned.

Dr. David Brailer, national coordinator for health IT, said that at that time he could provide only four awards due to the uncertain status of funding for his office. Additional contracts could be awarded, he said, if the Senate level of funding was increased in the conference report.

The final version of the Labor/HHS bill conference report approved by the House this week funds ONCHIT and its programs from several budget lines, including $42.8 million directly allocated to the office, combined with another $18.9 million allocated through the Public Health Service Act development a health IT network.

ONCHIT programs will also receive $50 million from the Agency for Health Research and Quality’s budget allocated to the “development of scientific evidence that supports the implementation and evaluation of health care information technology systems.”

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