The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology failed in its bid to receive a $50 million appropriation to support IT projects on its own, but the seven-month-old outfit headed by David Brailer. M.D., will have operating funds next year, according to a lobbyist for the Health Information Management Systems Society.
Thomas Leary, director of federal affairs at Chicago-based HIMSS, said the omnibus appropriation bill passed late Friday contains $54 million for IT projects, of which $50 million will go to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and $4 million for Brailer's office for operations and possibly limited grant funding for IT projects through that office.
Brailer's office this year was funded out of the budget of HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. Leary said he expects some money for ONCHIT operations will come out of Thompson's budget again next year. President Bush's budget request had included $50 million for Brailer's office, which was trimmed along with $3 billion cut from the HHS budget to reconcile the nine appropriation bills packaged together in the omnibus legislation with a $388 billion spending target set by the White House and Congress, Leary said.
Leary said the $50 million ONCHIT appropriation was to fund projects to further the implementation of IT, including the setting of standards of system interoperability now under way by Health Level 7, an internationally recognized standards-setting body.
For the healthcare IT industry, Leary said, the trimming represents "a welcome challenge in the 109th Congress."
"What it signals to me is that we have to work harder to educate members of Congress," Leary said. "Several years ago, IT wasn't even on the radar screen. We've come a long way, but we've got a lot of work to do."
Brailer's office could not be reached for comment by deadline.