Lawmakers To Withhold Funding Until VA, DOD Make EHR Progress

April 18, 2014 in News

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved a fiscal year 2015 budget plan that would withhold 75% of the funding the Department of Veterans Affairs requested for electronic health record system upgrades until the department can prove that it has made progress on EHR interoperability with the Department of Defense, the Military Times reports (Shane, Military Times, 4/16).

Similar language is expected to be included in the committee’s budget bill for DOD, according to EHR Intelligence (Bresnick, EHR Intelligence, 4/17).

Background

In February 2013, DOD and VA officials announced plans to halt a joint integrated EHR, or iEHR system, and instead focus on making their current EHR systems more interoperable.

The iEHR project was aimed at allowing every service member to maintain a single EHR throughout his or her career and lifetime.

The House and Senate in December 2013 approved a funding bill — the National Defense Authorization Act — that required VA and DOD to develop a plan for an interoperable or single electronic health record system by Jan. 31 (iHealthBeat, 4/7).

In January, DOD announced that it would keep its current EHR system through the end of 2018.

Last month, the Government Accountability Office released a report that said DOD and VA “have not substantiated their claims” that implementing separate, interoperable EHR systems will be more affordable and quicker than their original plan to develop a joint EHR system for both agencies (iHealthBeat, 3/17).

Details of Budget Cuts

The House budget proposal for VA includes about $65 billion in discretionary funding in FY 2015, a $1.5 billion increase from 2014′s funding levels. However, the funding is roughly $400 million less than what Obama administration officials had requested (Military Times, 4/16).

VA had requested $251 million for upgrading its current EHR system, called VistA Evolution, and $32.8 million to work on its Virtual Lifetime Electronic Health Record.

The 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Act prohibits VA and DOD from collecting more than 25% of their funding if they fail to meet EHR interoperability goals.

Lawmakers’ Comments

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) said if the departments “want their money, they’re going to have to earn it” (EHR Intelligence, 4/17).

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) added that he hopes the funding cuts will “finally [get] the two departments’ attention, and I expect to see some real progress on this soon” (Military Times, 4/16).

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