Budget gives boost to IT, health care

The Obama administration today requested $76.8 billion for the Health and Human Services Department in the fiscal 2010 budget overview, with much of the funding request directed at expanding technology, research, and access to health care. HHS got $70.5 billion in fiscal 2008. The White House has said the president would release a more detailed budget proposal in April.

In general and without providing figures, the budget proposes to build on the $19 billion spending in health information technology in the economic stimulus law and to continue those efforts through HHS’ Medicare, Medicaid and other programs to further adopt and implement health IT to help modernize the health care system and reduce medical errors. For example, Medicare would offer physicians and hospitals temporary incentive payments under that law starting in 2011 for using a certified electronic health record system. In 2015, providers would pay penalties for failure to use such a system.

The budget request also sets out the president’s plan for health care reform. It would establish a reserve fund of more than $630 million over 10 years to finance reform of the way the nation delivers health care to reduce costs and expand coverage. The administration would pay for the reserve fund through new revenue and savings proposals that promote efficiency and accountability and target incentives toward improved quality, according to the budget overview.

“The budget calls for an effort beyond this down payment, to put the nation on a path to health insurance coverage for all Americans,” the request said.

The administration would broaden health care research using the volumes of data in the Medicare and Medicaid programs to track trends and conduct pilot programs to evaluate payment reforms, efforts to provide higher quality care at lower costs and improve beneficiary education. Under the proposal, the budget would also direct more resources to strengthen program integrity efforts to reduce fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare’s prescription drug program, the Medicare Advantage private insurance plan and Medicaid.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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