Senate appropriators cut HHS funding for health IT

The Senate Appropriations Committee will provide nearly $30 million less for health IT initiatives than the House approved. Reduced funding could slow development of a national health IT infrastructure designed to support the exchange of patient health records.

The Senate committee last week recommended $95.2 million for health IT, compared with the $125 million President Bush requested and which the House approved, out of the $145.7 billion in funding for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies. The full Senate now must vote on the appropriations. Then the Senate and House must reconcile their versions.

The HHS Office of the National Health IT Coordinator, headed by David Brailer, would receive $45.2 million under the Senate recommendation, compared with $75 million from the House. The Appropriations Committee approved $12.4 million in funds that HHS could re-allocate from elsewhere in its budget to the health IT office.

Brailer's office has released proposals for contractors to develop standards for interoperability, a national health information infrastructure, prototypes for a health information network and unifying state privacy regulations. The health IT czar's office will provide seed money to start up a new organization, the American Health Information Community, to guide the rollout of national health IT interoperability standards.

HHS' Agency for Health Research and Quality, which funds health IT demonstration projects, would receive $50 million under the House-approved bill and the Senate Appropriations recommendation.

For 2005, Congress provided no funds for the national health IT office. However, lawmakers later reallocated $32.8 million.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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