The Omnibus Appropriations bill that passed Congress over the weekend will fund the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT at the same level as last fiscal year with a budget of just under $60.4 million. After the bill passed the House last week, the Senate approved it Saturday night.
Additionally, the bill grants $14.9 million to the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy within the Health Resources and Services Administration to administer the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Grant program for quality improvement and adoption of health information technology. It also awards the VA $3.9 billion in IT funds, $200 million more than FY2014, including $344 million for the modernization of VistA and the development of an interoperable system with the Department of the Defense.
Of the total IT budget, $548.34 million is earmarked for IT development, modernization and enhancement.
As proposed earlier in the year, it prohibits the VA from spending more than 25 percent of its funds until it submits a plan to Congress on how it will achieve interoperability with the Defense Department, according to a HIMSS summary. It must report any changes in scope, functionality, schedule or cost for the VistA upgrade. Similar language was part of the VA budget the previous year as well.
In July, a Government Accountability Office report found that the two agencies' plans submitted ton Congress fully satisfied only one of six statutory conditions placed on the project.
President Obama's proposed FY2015 budget sought $75 million for the ONC, a $15 million increase over funding actually approved for the agency for FY14.
In its "Congressional Asks"--formal requests to Congress to accomplish specific goals to advance health IT--HIMSS urged lawmakers to fund ONC at the higher level. It calls this fourth year and Stage 2 of Meaningful Use a "critical juncture" for the adoption and effective use of EHRs, citing the need to maintain the momentum achieved so far.