The proposed 2014 budget for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology includes $1 million from a new tax on health information technology vendors, but $1 million just starts the levy and revenue from the tax will be higher in coming years if enacted. VentureBeat first reported the fee.

“Due to ONC’s increasing workload, this request includes a proposal for a new health I.T. user fee that would provide ONC with the necessary resources to meet the increasing demands of health I.T. vendors and sustain the impact of its certification and standards work on the health I.T. marketplace and the health care system,” according to the office’s budget document. “An initial fee level of $1.0 million is suggested in FY 2014, reflecting the fact that collections would likely begin late in the fiscal year and would be phased in gradually.”

Imposition of the fee is necessary as funds from the Recovery Act of 2009, which included the HITECH Act, run out at the end of fiscal 2013, ONC notes in the budget document. The agency also argues that the fee would improve the efficiency not just of ONC, but also of EHR vendors and permit them to bring products to market quicker.

“Consequently, 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,” the budget document states. “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. These service level improvements would be expected to reduce the cost and time associated with developing health I.T. products, preparing products for testing and completing the certification process, thereby enabling vendors to expeditiously bring their products to market.”

In particular, the fee could fund administration of ONC’s health I.T. certification program and maintenance of the online list of certified products, development of implementation guides and other technical assistance for incorporating standards and specifications into products, development of health I.T. testing tools used by developers, testing laboratories and certification bodies; and development of consensus standards, specifications and policy documents related to certification criteria, according to the proposed budget. “Such fees shall be collected and available only to the extent and in such amounts as provided in advance in appropriations acts.”

Health I.T. certification bodies may collect the fee. “The secretary may, for the purpose of collecting fees, use the services of a department, agency or instrumentality authorized by the National Coordinator to perform the certification of health information technology in accordance with Section 300jj-11(c)(5) of Title 42, and may reimburse such department, agency or instrumentality a reasonable amount for its services.”

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