ONC Proposes New EMR Vendor Fee

Posted on April 12, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

It looks like federal budget balancing fervor could soon have an impact on EMR vendors (See also this post on EHR Incentive and Sequestration). As part of President Obama’s current budget proposal, the ONC is suggesting that health IT vendors pay about $1 million in fees to help pay for its certification and standards work, reports Modern Healthcare. Collection of the fee, which would probably begin late in the fiscal year, would be collected by ONC-Authorized Certification Bodies.

The proposal is part of the ONC’s section of the overall budget proposal released this week by the Obama Administration. The president’s budget is already causing a stir in healthcare circles outside of IT, as it calls for $5.6 billion in Medicare payment cuts for fiscal 2014.

So what has caused the ONC to look for fresh revenue?  One key reason is that ONC’s $2 billion appropriation from ARRA is scheduled to expire at the end of fiscal 2013, and the agency needs new funds to stay on its feet.

By its logic, the improved testing and certification programs will help vendors save time and money, which justifies their kicking in some money to support the process, Modern Healthcare says.

Not only would the funds gear up the certification program, it would also help maintain ONC’s Certified Health IT product list, as well as its development work around standards for interoperability and policy docs related to HIT certification, the magazine reports.

Without a doubt, the proposed fees will make vendors unhappy, but as I see it they’re just not large enough to justify a major uprising by the health IT community.  The only real issue I see is whether the fees are going to be proportionate to the size of the vendor; if I were a small ambulatory player I’d be quite upset if I paid the same fee as Epic or Cerner.

Otherwise, this fee seems like a relatively small issue, particularly if ONC does a good job of using the funds to improve the certification program. Let’s hope it works out that way.