House Passes Federal Spending Bill With Health IT Implications

December 12, 2014 in News

On Thursday, the House narrowly passed a continuing resolution omnibus spending bill, or “cromnibus,” that has implications for health IT, Health Data Management reports (Goedert, Health Data Management, 12/12).

The measure — which would fund the federal government through September 2015 — passed 219-206. According to Reuters, 67 Republicans voted against the bill, while 57 Democrats supported the measure. Although the House passed the measure before the Thursday deadline to avoid a government shutdown, the measure did not reach the Senate in time.

To address the delay, the House also passed a 48-hour stopgap spending measure to continue funding the federal government until a larger spending measure is passed by both chambers (Lawder/Cowan, Reuters, 12/12).

Cromnibus’ Health IT Provisions

The federal spending package has implications for military health IT and rural health IT efforts.

For example, the bill would require the departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense to submit reports to Congress on their progress in updating their EHR systems (iHealthBeat, 12/10). The bill would provide VA with nearly $4 billion for ┬áIT, including funding for the development of a standard data reference terminology model. The bill also would give VA the flexibility to designate up to $123 million in funds allocated for “Medical Services” and “Medical Support and Compliance” to enhance its VistA electronic health record system and interoperability.

However, the bill would prohibit VA from spending more than 25% of those allocated funds until it reports on its plan to achieve interoperability with DOD’s health systems (Health Data Management, 12/12).

Under the bill, DOD also only would be able to spend 25% of the funding allocated to its Defense Health Program until it reports on its plan to achieve interoperability with VA’s health system, including the implementation timeline and cost estimate of its new EHR system.

In addition, the package would allocate $14.9 million to the Health Resources and Services Administration to help small, rural hospitals adopt health IT. HRSA also would receive an additional $1 million to fund telehealth.

Meanwhile, the spending bill also includes $10.3 million for the Department of Agriculture to fund broadband transmission in rural areas for telehealth and distance learning programs.

The package would allocate about $60 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (iHealthBeat, 12/10). ONC’s budget would be the same as it received in fiscal year 2014, but less than the $75 million requested.

Further, the spending bill would grant CMS the authority to build a cloud-based platform to collect and disseminate public health data to ease reporting burdens for state public health departments (Health Data Management, 11/12).

Next Steps

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he hopes the measure will pass on Friday. However, Reid noted the possibility that a vote will not be held until the weekend.

According to the AP/Miami Herald, the cromnibus could face some resistance in the Senate, despite overall White House support for the measure (Taylor, AP/Miami Herald, 12/12).

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