The federally sponsored regional health information technology extension-center program will receive a financial boost from HHS, Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology, has announced.
Extension centers to get IT grant boost
Originally established with 90% federal dollars and 10% local matches, the regional extension centers were to become largely self-funded after two years, with federal support reduced to just 10% and local funds covering the remaining 90% of operations.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, however, has taken advantage of a provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that allows her to extend 90% federal support to the extension centers after determining that the originally proposed cut in federal matching funds would be "detrimental to the program" because of national economic conditions. The extension of the 90% federal match is for an additional two years.
Notice of the change in plans was published in the Federal Register.
There are 62 federally funded regional extension centers. The centers are required to give priority IT assistance to solo and small physician group practices of 10 or fewer physicians and should focus their support on primary care. The centers also should serve public and critical-access hospitals, community health centers, rural health clinics and other care settings "that predominantly serve uninsured, underinsured and medically underserved populations," according to a description of the program in the Federal Register notice.
Income that the extension centers generate from fees charged to participating providers receiving IT services must be "first used to finance the non-federal share of the project," according to the notice, which adds: "To support sustainability, ONC places no limits on the accrual of program income. After the federal cost-sharing requirement is met, program income generated using federal funds, including fees for services, must be added to funds committed to the project by the federal government and used to further eligible project or program objectives."
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