Funding for Health Information Technology Removed From Appropriations Bill
The New York Times on Friday examined the removal from the 2005 omnibus appropriations bill of a "seemingly modest" $50 million request for funding for health care information technology, which some say "raises questions about the [Bush] administration's commitment" to modernizing the health system. Although President Bush this year has "repeatedly sounded" the need for electronic health records as a way to reduce medical errors and increase efficiency, "the dollars, it seems, are scarce," the Times reports.
National Coordinator for Health Information Technology David Brailer requested the $50 million for health IT demonstration projects, which would "encourage the industry to agree on technology standards" and spur private investment in medical information technology, the Times reports. Some say a lack of federal funding could lead to a reliance on private industry to supply most of the investment for electronic health records and information-sharing networks. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) called the denial of the funding request a "disgrace." He added, "Congress, in its infinite wisdom, zeroed-out David Brailer's office. They couldn't find $50 million to signal that David Brailer has a real job and what he's doing is important."
Brailer, in an interview on Thursday, said, "The money is important," adding that the omission of health care IT funding from the appropriations bill "was a bad bounce, and it shows how big our education challenge is." Some observers say that Congress' decision is "probably not a serious blow or a reason yet for companies to rethink their plans to invest in health care information technology" and that a portion of HHS' $60 billion discretionary funding could "find its way into Dr. Brailer's office to finance some ... favored projects," according to the Times. Brailer said, "I have absolute confidence that the president is totally behind what we are doing, and it is far more than a rhetorical commitment. And I've been given assurances that the momentum we've built up will not be lost" (Lohr, New York Times, 12/3).