Mostashari: Vendor fee 'assures' funding for Meaningful Use program

National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari on Wednesday defended a potential user fee on electronic health record vendors that was included as part of President Obama's 2014 proposed budget. At the ONC's Health IT Standards Committee, he said the idea of a fee--which aims to raise $1 million to support certification and standardization activities--could provide "an assured funding base," Government Health IT reports.

Mostashari (right) added, though, that the budget's approval merely would authorize ONC to have a fee; it still would require congressional approval.

Language in the ONC's budget said the fee specifically would go toward the development of "additional testing tools, and other forms of technical assistance."

"These service level improvements would be expected to reduce the cost and time associated with developing health IT products, preparing products for testing, and completing the certification process, thereby enabling vendors to expeditiously bring their products to market," according to the budget.

Mostashari said the fee would only be effective if it allowed vendors to essentially offset the increasing cost of certification fees. "I think there is value in reducing uncertainty and making sure that we can have a permanent certification program," he said.

The idea of a fee drew the ire of the HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association, a trade association of EHR vendors. The group said that rather than imposing a fee, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services should reevaluate the value and necessity of both Meaningful Use program requirements and associated certification activities.

"This is especially important as the industry considers the scope and depth of Meaningful Use Stage 2 as balanced against the infrastructure and tactical work that would be required for successful deployment," a statement from the association said.

To learn more:
- here's the Government Health IT article
- here's the HIMSS EHR Association statement (.pdf)