ONC cuts would be reversed under new amendment

President Donald Trump proposed cutting $22 million from the budget for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) in fiscal year 2018. Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nevada, has introduced an amendment to keep the agency’s funding at its 2017 level.

The amendment itself is brief, simply reversing the proposed 37 percent reduction in ONC funding. Rosen had criticized the cuts in a June letter to the House Appropriations Committee.

“The Administration has tried to justify its decision based on the specious notion that because many physicians and hospitals have begun to adopt health IT, ONC’s role as envisioned by Congress just eight years ago is now moot,” she wrote. “On the contrary, wider adoption of health information systems and the proliferation of electronic medical records necessitates more policy guidance and support for innovation, not less.”

As noted by POLITICO, Rosen has both a tech background and some familiarity with healthcare, as she used to be a computer software developer and systems analyst and is married to a radiologist.

She’s not alone in opposing cuts to ONC. Health IT groups including Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) and the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) said the smaller ONC budget would threaten implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act.

“The bipartisan passage of the Cures Act by Congress last year made clear that investment in our nation’s health IT infrastructure is critically important if we are to advance new drugs and devices and fully realize the benefits of a learning healthcare system. ONC is a critical partner in this endeavor,” said Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, CEO of AHIMA.

Industry opposition hasn’t appeared to sway members of Congress as it has with other cuts within HHS. Trump’s budget would reduce the agency’s overall funding by 16 percent, including a $7 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health. The House Appropriations Committee’s own budget proposal reversed several of those cuts, but kept the ONC reductions in place.