Major cuts to healthcare industry oversight agencies are suggested in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget proposal released by the Trump Administration this week. Included in the proposal is the total elimination of funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), as well as significant cuts to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), according to Health Data Management. The overall Department of Health and Human Services funding would be slashed by $18 billion in the proposed budget.
Under the proposal, AHRQ’s patient safety and healthcare quality research activities would be moved to a new entity within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), called the National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality (NIRSQ). “Within NIH, the FY 2019 budget includes $256 million in budget authority for NIRSQ to continue selected unique, systemically important activities formerly funded by AHRQ that have demonstrated effectiveness in improving healthcare quality,” according to the proposal.
ONC faces a $22 million reduction in its budget in the current proposal, a 37 percent cut from the previous year. The document directs that the cut in funds will be accommodated as ONC will “continue the cost reductions included in the FY 2018 budget related to information technology, space, staff training and agency travel.”
ONC is in charge of implementing parts of the 21st Century Cures Act that encourage health IT adoption, and the proposed cuts could put data exchange efforts at risk. ONC “is an integral part of the nation’s health IT infrastructure, and any depletion of its funding would inhibit the adoption of health information exchange nationwide,” said Pamela Lane, MS, RHIA, vice president of policy and government relations for AHIMA. “Adequate funding to the ONC and promotion of health IT helps improve the quality and affordability of US healthcare.”
OCR, in charge of HIPAA enforcement, is allocated $31 million in the FY 2019 budget proposal, which is $8 million less than the FY 2018 Continuing Resolution level, according to Health Data Management. The proposal document asserts that OCR will continue to improve its HIPAA enforcement efforts under the reduced budget.
While precedent indicates that Congress largely ignores White House budget proposals, the FY 2019 budget proposal does at least indicate overall intentions and priorities for the current administration. Congress recently passed a two-year budget deal, making the timing or likelihood of action on any of the Trump Administration’s proposals unclear.
Sarah Sheber is assistant editor/web editor at Journal of AHIMA.