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ONC Funding Cut in FY2019 Draft Bill, NIH Funds Boosted

Recently proposed legislation would drop ONC funding by $17.7 million, while investments were made in medical research and public health.

onc funding health it interoperability

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- The House Appropriations Committee released a draft version of the FY2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS) Funding Bill last week, which included a cut in ONC funding.

ONC’s budget would be $42.7 million under the legislation, a decrease of $17.7 million from the previous year.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be given an increase of $1 billion, while the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would also see an increase of $1.25 billion above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level.

“For the fourth consecutive year, the bill allocates increased funds for the National Institutes of Health at $1.25 billion, for a total of $38.3 billion,” LHHS Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole said in a statement. “These funds will greatly benefit numerous medical research programs, combat opioid abuse and support the search for cures for many cancers and diseases. Additionally, the bill includes increases for important education programs like TRIO, career and technical education, and early childhood education initiatives.”

“Provisions related to the protection of human life are continued in this year’s bill as well. This bill is one that supports and benefits all Americans,” he continued.

NIH funding would focus on medical research, including Alzheimer’s disease research, funds for the Cancer Moonshot research initiative, and an increase for the All of Us research initiative.

Funding for CMS administrative expenses would also decrease under the proposed legislation, dropping to $3.5 billion, which is $168 million below the fiscal year 2018 enacted level. LHHS maintained that the funding amount “is sufficient to maintain core operations and services.”

“The bill does not include additional funding to implement ObamaCare programs, prohibits funds for the ‘Navigators’ program, and prohibits the collection of user fees from the Health Insurance Exchanges,” the committee added.  

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) would be provided $334 million – the same as the previous year. Additionally, most of AHRQ’s activities would be merged into NIH under the budget request proposal.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) would also increase to $5.6 billion, or $448 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level.

“The bill includes $3.85 billion to address substance use, including opioid and heroin abuse, which is $36 million above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $1.75 billion above the budget request,” the committee explained. “This amount includes $1 billion for State opioid response grants, along with funding for programs authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act and the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.”

Overall, the draft bill is approximately the same as the 2018 enacted level of $177.1 billion.

“This bill funds critical programs that will protect and save lives both now and in the future, and help prepare the next generation to be part of a productive workforce to grow our economy and provide for their families,” House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen stated. “This includes investments in vital research to cure diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s, job training, college preparation, and special education programs, and protections against health threats such as pandemics and bio-threats.”

Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed a $38 million budget for ONC, which was $22 million below the amount allotted to the federal agency in the FY 2018 Continuing Resolution.

HHS explained in a budget brief that the FY2019 funds would focus on improving health IT interoperability and reducing provider burden.

In a landscape of large healthcare delivery networks and hundreds of thousands of smaller providers, achieving interoperability among various health IT systems while addressing burdens felt by providers is vital to creating a safe and secure health IT infrastructure that improves health and health care for all Americans,” HHS wrote.

“ONC will continue to administer the policy and rulemaking activities that are required by the 21st Century Cures Act, Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act,” the agency continued.



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