ONC's hopes for more cash dim with release of federal draft funding bill

A draft funding bill released by the House Appropriations Committee gives the Health and Human Services Department $298 million more than last year, but the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's funding will remain at $60 million.

The draft bill includes funding for programs in the Department of Labor, HHS, Department of Education and more. HHS will get a total of $71.3 billion, which is more than last year but $3.9 billion less than President Barack Obama's budget request, according to an announcement.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell had lobbied for a boost in funding for ONC, the National Institutes of Health and the president's Precision Medicine Initiative at a House hearing in February. The proposed $1.09 trillion HHS budget called for $92 million for ONC, up from $60 million last year. However, in the committee's draft funding bill, ONC will get $60,367,000.

In the president's FY16 budget proposal, he outlined two major health IT priorities: advancing interoperability of health information and expanding Medicare data sharing.

Interoperability problems in healthcare continue to get more attention from lawmakers on the Hill, with the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions holding a series of discussions focusing on how to improve electronic health records and create an interoperable health system. However, despite the increased attention health IT is getting, it seems that's not enough for ONC to receive more funding. 

However, the National Institutes of Health will get $31.2 billion, which is $100 million above the president's budget request. It also gives the full $200 million requested for Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative. In addition, the bill calls for $150 million for the president's BRAIN initiative.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- check out the bill