Senators worry Trump’s HHS budget cuts will impede 21st Century Cures implementation

The Senate side of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Democratic Senators, led by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the $15 billion budget cut to HHS laid out in the president’s budget blueprint “jeopardizes” critical aspects of the 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in December.

A group of 11 senators relayed their “extreme concern” over the president’s proposed budget cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services, noting that insufficient funding will disrupt 21st Century Cures implementation including several health IT initiatives.

In a letter (PDF) to President Donald Trump, the Democratic senators, led by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the $15 billion budget cut to HHS laid out in the president’s budget blueprint “jeopardizes” critical aspects of the 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in December.

The group called out specific portions of the law that require the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to advance interoperability, establish an EHR reporting program and provide guidance on health IT usability and security. Additionally, the HHS Inspector General is tasked with investigating and penalizing organizations that engaged information blocking.

RELATED: AHIMA raises concerns about ONC funding

“The Office of the National Coordinator and the Office of the Inspector General require adequate funding to accomplish the important objective established in the 21st Century Cures Act, in addition to the critical work they already do to promote the use of interoperable HIT in improving healthcare quality and efficiency,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter also worried that an executive order signed by the president in March calling for slimmer federal agencies could “disrupt or eliminate” programs that are critical to 21st Century Cures implementation.

Last month, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) raised pre-emptive concerns that Trump’s 2018 budget would leave ONC with insufficient funding to meet legislative requirements laid out in the 21st Century Cures Act.  

Although Trump’s budget blueprint included deep cuts to the National Institutes of Health, raising concerns about the future of precision health initiatives, it did not address specific funding cuts to ONC. The recent $1 trillion omnibus spending package that will fund the federal government through September maintained ONC’s budget at $60 million.