Once again, the federal electronic health-record incentive payment program could take a financial hit due to government budget cutting. This time, EHR developers are being asked to take one for the team.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, as part of President Barack Obama's budget proposal, wants health IT vendors to pay an estimated $1 million in fees to help offset the cost of ONC's certification and standards activities.
The fee plan is tucked into the last two pages of the ONC's 59-page portion of the budget proposal released Wednesday. The president's overall budget called for $5.6 billion in Medicare payment cuts for fiscal 2014.
Last month, funds for providers were put on the chopping block as federal officials announced that hospitals, physicians and other professionals would see their EHR incentive payments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act trimmed by 2% under the sequester after federal government went over the “fiscal cliff.”
Because much of ONC's work to date has been funded through a $2 billion appropriation from 2009 ARRA, and those funds are scheduled to expire at the end of fiscal 2013, “a new revenue source is necessary,” the ONC budget statement said. The new money will “ensure that ONC can continue to fully administer the (EHR) certification program as well as invest resources to improve its efficiency.” Because the benefits of improved testing programs should enable EHR vendors to save time and money in the certification process, the proposed fee will be applied to them.