HHS budget focuses on bioterror, e-health efforts

President Bush has used the bully pulpit to advocate for the adoption of health IT, such as electronic health records, and in fiscal 2006 he has requested $125 million to back up that talk.

The Health and Human Services Department would receive $5.3 billion for IT next year, nearly 2 percent more than the $5.2 billion for this year. Total HHS discretionary spending edged down 1 percent to $67.2 billion.

Most of the health IT funds would cover grants for projects by regional health organizations and for health information networks.

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT would receive $75 million for planning activities to support electronic prescriptions and the development of standards for electronic patient records. In the budget proposal sent to Congress, the White House also requested $50 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to make grants for projects that demonstrate how to use IT to improve patient safety.

For the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the budget seeks $149.8 million for the Healthcare Integrated General Ledger Accounting System. HIGLAS will support accounting for Medicare claims and other financial operations for the center and is a component of the department's Unified Financial Management System.

So far, HIGLAS processes 3.5 million transactions daily and supports 52 Medicare contractors. Next year, CMS wants to implement HIGLAS for more Medicare contractors, roll out the administrative accounting module at headquarters and complete other payment interfaces.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects to receive $68 million for its Public Health Informatics standards effort to allow for data sharing. The amount reflects $5 million less for the Public Health Information Network as CDC moves from the design of the system to its implementation.

The budget would allocate $4.2 billion for bioterrorism spending across the department, $154 million more than HHS plans to spend this year, including:

  • $1.8 billion for the National Institutes of Health to research and develop countermeasures against chemical, nuclear and radiological threats

  • $600 million for the Strategic National Stockpile, which contains vaccines, antibiotics, pharmaceutical supplies and casualty treatment units that can be delivered anywhere in the country within 12 hours

  • $244 million for the Food and Drug Administration for biological, chemical, food and radiological surveillance efforts, and for the Food Emergency Response Network and Emergency Response and Operations Network

  • $70 million for the Health Resources and Services Administration's initiative to track state and local hospital capacity to accommodate medical care demands after an attack involving weapons of mass destruction.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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