Congress passed and the President signed this week a spending bill (H.R. 83) that funds most of the federal government through September 30, 2015. While the bill was very broad in scope, there are a number of provisions that directly address Health IT, specifically:
- Directs ONC to use ONC to use its authority to certify only those products that clearly meet current meaningful use program standards and that do not block health information exchange. Allocates $60 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT which is less than the $75 million requested.
- Grants CMS the authority to build a cloud-based platform to collect and disseminate public health data to ease reporting burdens for state public health departments
- ·Requires the departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense to submit reports to Congress on their progress in updating their EHR systems. Provides VA with nearly $4 billion for IT, including funding for the development of a standard data reference terminology model and gives the VA the flexibility to designate up to $123 million in funds allocated for "Medical Services" and "Medical Support and Compliance" to enhance its VistA electronic health record system and interoperability.
- Prohibits VA from spending more than 25% of those allocated funds until it reports on its plan to achieve interoperability with DOD's health systems
- Limits DoD spending on to spend 25% of the funding allocated to its Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization (DHMSM) funding (EHR modernization) until it reports on its plan to achieve interoperability with VA's health system, including the implementation timeline and cost estimate of its new EHR system.
- Allocates $14.9 million to the Health Resources and Services Administration to help small, rural hospitals adopt health IT. HRSA also would receive an additional $1 million to fund telehealth.
- Allocates $10.3 million for the Department of Agriculture to fund broadband transmission in rural areas for telehealth and distance learning programs.
- Directs the Health IT Policy Committee to submit a report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and the appropriate authorizing committees no later than 12 months after enactment of this act regarding the challenges and barriers to interoperability. The report should cover the technical, operational, and financial barriers to interoperability, the role of certification in advancing or hindering interoperability across various providers, and any other barriers identified by the Policy Committee.