AHIMA raises concerns about ONC funding

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) voiced pre-emptive concerns that the 2018 budget won't include enough funding to implement provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act.

In a letter submitted to the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon said cutting funding to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) would limit the agency's ability to meet the legislative requirements set forth in the 21st Century Cures Act.

AHIMA notes that the law requires ONC to establish a Health IT Advisory Committee, develop a trusted exchange framework and take steps to improve patient access to EHRs.

“Overall, AHIMA is concerned that the President’s current proposed FY18 budget request will not provide ONC with the sufficient funding to meet the above obligations set forth by Congress,” Gordon wrote.

RELATED: NIH head lauds 21st Century Cures Act data-sharing

The ONC’s annual budget was $60 million for 2015 and 2016. President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for FY2017 included a $22 million boost for ONC; however, the federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution until April 28, which maintains 2016 funding levels.

Trump’s budget blueprint, released in March, included more than $15 billion in cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services, most of which would come from the National Institutes of Health and several community service programs. The budget made no mention of ONC funding cuts.

Last month, Health IT Now called on HHS Secretary Tom Price to review whether ONC has “overstepped original authorities provided under the HITECH Act."

RELATED: Trump’s budget sows doubt about the future of precision medicine, major research efforts

Lauren Riplinger, AHIMA's senior director of federal relations, told FierceHealthcare the letter is a “pre-emptive strike” given the cuts that Trump’s budget blueprint levied against other HHS agencies, but added that there have been no early indications that ONC would necessarily be on the chopping block.

“We wanted to pre-emptively let the Appropriations Committee know this is a concern for us,” she said.