Before leaving for the holidays, the Senate approved the $602 billion Labor-HHS appropriations bill for fiscal 2006, which in part gives the David Brailer-led Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology $61.7 million in funding. The number, though on the low end of the overall budget, is still $40.4 million more than the ONCHIT had to operate with last year.
At the outset, President Bush originally called for -- and the House passed -- plans for a $75 million ONCHIT budget. The Senate, however, came in with a lower number, roughly $42.5 million. The 2006 budget effectively splits the difference. Brailer spent most of the 2005 budgets to pay vendors who were hand-selected to tackle key components for a trial health IT system. Contracts went out to groups who would ensure that health IT standards would be standardized, certified and legal across state lines.
The Labor-HHS bill, which is more than $105 billion over the fiscal 2005 budget, includes additional funding for Medicare and Medicaid and a $28.6 billion earmark for the National Institutes of Health and $90 million in additional funding for rural healthcare programs, according to published reports.