NIH funding boost, ONC reduction in FY18 House appropriations bill

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The National Institutes of Health is getting a major funding boost from House appropriators for Fiscal Year 2018, which will support the agency’s Precision Medicine Initiative and other health IT priorities. However, the Office of National Coordinator for HIT will see its budget slashed next year.

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee released its draft FY18 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education funding bill that includes $35.2 billion earmarked for NIH, an increase of $1.1 billion above the FY17 enacted level and $8.6 billion above the Trump administration’s budget request.

Also See: Coalition forms to fight proposed NIH budget cuts

The bill, which will be considered in subcommittee today, includes increases for several of NIH’s critical medical research areas that rely heavily on health IT.

The Precision Medicine Initiative All of Us—a national cohort of 1 million Americans, who will contribute their physical, genomic and electronic health record data to the landmark study—would receive $400 million, an increase of $80 million over last year’s budget.

Likewise, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies initiative, which will generate a tsunami of neuroscience data that will be managed, shared, and analyzed to better understand how brains work, received a FY18 appropriation of $336 million, an increase of $76 million over the previous year.

The Cancer Moonshot, which seeks to harness data within EHRs vital to improving disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care, will get $300 million in funding—the same amount requested in President Trump's budget request. The 21st Century Cures Act, passed late last year, authorized $1.8 billion for the effort over seven years, with an initial $300 million in funding.

Health IT Now, a coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers and payers, praised the House Appropriations Committee for funding these HIT-related initiatives at NIH.

“We are grateful to House appropriators for recognizing the vital importance of robust National Institutes of Health funding in this spending bill,” said HITN Executive Director Joel White. “The legislation’s much-needed $1.1 billion increase in NIH funding will make great strides toward continued implementation of the Precision Medicine Initiative and other health IT priorities. Patients and providers will rest easier knowing that, in this time of budget setbacks and uncertainty, the lifesaving and irreplaceable work of NIH will not be left on the cutting room floor.”

At the same time, however, the proposed legislation reduced FY18 funding for ONC to a little more than $38 million, a total that is in line with the Trump administration’s budget request for the agency—a decrease of nearly $22 million from the FY17 enacted level of $60 million.

“The funding reduction will help ONC refocus on core priorities,” added White, whose organization has long criticized the expansion of ONC’s scope. “In recent years, ONC has extended its reach beyond its congressionally defined parameters. It is past time for an honest assessment of the role that ONC plays in federal programs and in today’s marketplace. This funding sets the table for such a discussion. The adjusted spending levels present an opportunity for the agency to return to a laser focus on interoperability and implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act.”

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