Health IT, Telehealth Would See Cuts in Suggested Trump Budget

Just as he did earlier this year with his spending proposal for the remainder of FY 2017, President Donald Trump has made waves on and off the Hill with the release of his FY 2018 budget blueprint. With its suggested broad cuts to health care and social welfare programs, including Medicaid, the document, dubbed “A New Foundation For American Greatness,” has drawn criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. What’s more, also among the areas (as Politico, Fierce Healthcare, and others first reported) targeted for reduced funding in the so-called “skinny budget” are a number of programs that are particularly important to health IT, telehealth, and scientific and medical research.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) would face particularly draconian cuts under the Trump budget, with a suggested $22 million reduction in funds. If enacted, the cuts would mean that the agency would have to eliminate more than 20 staff positions, Politico notes. The HHS Office of Civil Rights, which is often tasked with responding to health care data breaches, would also see funding slashed. Advocates have long worried about the impact of cuts to health IT-related programs. Earlier this month (as we noted at the time), a group of Democratic senators expressed concern about potential cuts to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funding in the 2018 budget blueprint, asserting in a letter to the president that it would hamper the agency’s efforts to implement the 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law at the end of 2016. Among the provisions that worried them: lack of funding for the agency’s health IT-related programs authorized through Cures. After the FY18 blueprint was released, with an overall suggested 18 percent cut to the HHS budget, many health IT advocates voiced their disappointment. For her part, AHIMA’s Lynne Thomas Gordon told Fierce Healthcare that her organization was “disappointed” with the budget plan. “The bipartisan passage of the Cures Act by Congress last year made clear that investment in our nation’s health IT infrastructure is critically important if we are to advance new drugs and devices and fully realize the benefits of a learning health care system,” she explained.

Troublingly for telehealth advocates, the budget blueprint also calls for a reduction in funding for rural telehealth programs operated through the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), from $17 million to $10 million. Also not immune from cuts: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which would face $5.8 billion and $1.2 billion in reduced funding, respectively. As they did with the president’s FY17 budget blueprint, advocates for scientific and medical research weighed in, with most asserting that the suggested cuts would have a chilling effect on innovation. “The president’s ongoing desire to cut NIH’s research budget contradicts the bipartisan support the agency received as recently as earlier this month,” the Personalized Medicine Coalition’s Edward Abrahams told Fierce Healthcare, calling the proposed cuts a “travesty.” Stay tuned as Congress continues crafting the budget for the next fiscal year.

Click here for the article from Politico on the FY18 budget blueprint.

Click here for the article from Fierce Healthcare on potential budget cuts to health IT programs.


Leave a Reply