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By Alex Ruoff
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology proposed a “health IT user fee” as part of its fiscal 2014 budget to support the agency's electronic health record certification process.
The fees, to be collected from health information technology vendors certifying their EHR products for use in the “meaningful use” program, are estimated to bring the agency $1 million in 2014 and would be “phased in gradually,” according to ONC's proposed budget.
The fees would be assessed on health IT vendors that certify their products through ONC's Health IT Certification Program and based on a fee structure that would be established once the program is approved, ONC said. Fees would be collected on the agency's behalf by ONC-authorized certification bodies.
The Electronic Health Record Association, a part of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, said in a statement released April 11 that it does not support the health IT user fee.
“Adding costs to the health care system at a time when providers already feel significant effects from several new legislative and regulatory programs, including payment cuts, is not an approach consistent with the government's larger goals of fostering broad health information technology adoption to support healthcare delivery system reform,” EHRA said.
The proposed budget is part of President Obama's $3.778 trillion fiscal year 2014, unveiled April 10. ONC is asking for a $17 million budget increase to offset expiring Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act funds (see previous article).
ONC authorizes third party agencies to certify EHR systems for use in the meaningful use program.
ONC's efforts to “update and guide the prioritization and adoption of standards and certification criteria to support new technologies, future stages of meaningful use, and delivery reform activities has resulted in a substantial increase in ONC's workload,” the agency said in justifying the proposed fee.
“A new revenue source is necessary to ensure that ONC can continue to fully administer the certification program as well as invest resources to improve its efficiency,” ONC said. “Such improvements are envisioned to include, among other improvements, additional testing tools and resources, less time between revisions to testing tools, and other forms of technical assistance.”
EHRA suggested that the Department of Health and Human Services “streamline” the meaningful use program to save costs in lieu of establishing the new health IT user fee.
“This is especially important as the industry considers the scope and depth of meaningful use Stage 3 as balanced against the infrastructure and tactical work that would be required for successful deployment,” EHRA said.
By Alex Ruoff
ONC's proposed budget is at http://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/fy-2014-onc-cj-040213.pdf.
The EHRA statement is at http://op.bna.com/mdw.nsf/r?Open=plon-96prr2.
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