ONCHIT funding in jeopardy

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The House Appropriations Committee is recommending cutting almost half of the funds for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT). The $61 million it will appropriate for the office for fiscal year 2008 is $56.5 million less than the request made by the Bush administration.

That amount is the same amount of funding appropriated for 2007. The committee’s report said it would only give the office the same amount of funding because of concerns that the office has yet to develop a detailed and integrated implementation plan for achieving its strategic goals. The committee requested that by March 1, the HHS secretary should submit a report to the House and Senate appropriations committees that offers an implementation plan for health IT, which includes performance benchmarks, milestones and timelines for achieving program objectives.

The committee also requested that the secretary submit by March 1 the privacy and security framework that will establish trust among consumers and users of electronic personal health information and will govern all efforts to advance electronic health information exchange. The framework should address issues such as the purpose for data collection; transparency; allowing individuals to know and have a say in who uses their information, and how; security; audit; and appropriate remedies in the event of breach or misuse.

The Senate Appropriations Committee didn't include such provisions in its recommendation that the office receive $71 million for fiscal year 2008. President Bush issued an Executive Order creating ONCHIT in April, 2004.