House Committee OKs Funding Bill With Health IT Implications

June 25, 2015 in News

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted 30-21 to advance a fiscal year 2016 funding bill for HHS and the departments of Labor and Education that includes funding cuts for some health IT-related agencies, MedPage Today reports (Frieden, MedPage Today, 6/24).

It is the first time in six years that the committee has advanced a spending bill for the departments (Shabad, The Hill, 6/24). The bill still must be approved by the full House and Senate (MedPage Today, 6/24).

Funding Bill Details

Overall, the draft measure totals $153 billion, representing a $3.7 billion decrease in funding from last year’s budget. The draft bill allocates $71.3 billion for HHS, up $298 million from FY 2015. The HHS funding includes:

  • $31.2 billion for NIH, up $1.1 billion from FY 2015;
  • $7 billion for CDC, up $140 million from FY 2015;
  • More than $6 billion for the Health Resources and Services Administration, down $299 million from FY 2015; and
  • $3.6 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, up $23 million from FY 2015 (iHealthBeat, 6/18).

According to The Hill, CDC funding is prioritized to target bioterror attacks and pandemic diseases. The move comes after many lawmakers raised concerns about health and research funding during the Ebola crisis in fall 2014 (The Hill, 6/24).

Health IT-Related Funding

Under the measure, funding for ONC would remain at $60.4 million. The Obama administration in its proposed FY 2016 budget had requested an increase to $91.8 million for ONC.

In addition, the draft measure would:

  • Cut $7 billion in funding for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation; and
  • Eliminate funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which among other things conducts research on various health IT initiatives (iHealthBeat, 6/18).

In addition, report language attached to the bill raises concerns about the upcoming ICD-10 implementation and the burden it will place on physicians, particularly those in small practices. Lawmakers wrote, “The committee urges the [HHS] secretary to work with medical providers to establish a hardship exemption for those practices that would be harmed by the change” (Tahir et al, “Morning eHealth,” Politico, 6/25).

Reaction

During the hearing, several lawmakers argued against defunding AHRQ.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn), said, “AHRQ plays a unique role that needs to be continued.” She noted that some members had proposed moving AHRQ’s functions to ONC, “but the bill doesn’t provide additional resources to [that] office to pick up the mission.”

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) offered an amendment to restore funding for AHRQ, but the measure failed on a voice vote (MedPage Today, 6/24).

The Obama administration in a letter to the committee also raised “serious concerns” about the bill’s effect on AHRQ and its reduced funding for CMMI (Office of Management and Budget letter, 6/23).

Similarly, National Partnership for Women Families President Debra Ness in a statement called the cuts “irresponsible.” She said, “Failing to fund [AHRQ], cutting $6.2 billion from [CMMI] appropriation and failing to provide a badly needed increase for [ONC] would be short-sighted and harmful” (National Partnership for Women Families release, 6/24).

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