President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal, some initial details of which were released this week, has raised quite a few eyebrows. This is largely due to its suggested $54 billion increase in defense spending, to be offset by cuts to funding for non-defense programs at various federal agencies–what one administration official termed “lower priority programs and most federal agencies.” The president reiterated his commitment to making such cuts in his Tuesday address to a joint session of Congress.
Now, some in the health care community are voicing concerns about the impact that the slashing of agency budgets could have on health IT. As Politico’s David Pittman comments, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, both of which work to promote health care technology, could be seeing counterproductive decreases in funding. AHRQ, he notes, “has been a popular target in the past” for those seeking to make budget cuts. For its part, “ONC would love more money to implement many new responsibilities under 21st Century Cures, but that budget increase would seem less likely under the White House’s spending plan.”
While the president lacks the power to actually enact the budget into law, his proposed budget sheds some light on his priorities, though perhaps not as much when it comes to supporting the use of new technologies in health care. Further, despite his continuous promises to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Trump has so far offered next to no details about what such a replacement plan would look like, or, indeed, about any of his top health care priorities. He and members of his cabinet have promised to shield Medicare from cuts, and in his Tuesday address to Congress, Trump voiced support for a program that would provide tax credits for the purchase of health insurance. But little is known about his views on health IT, and perhaps only time will tell.