President Joe Biden proposed a $6 trillion budget on Friday, aimed at expanding economic opportunity, improving education and creating a DARPA-like agency tasked with healthcare innovation, among other investments.
The budget, which expands on congressional allocations authorized under COVID-19 relief bills, focuses on what Biden’s administration calls “building back better,” a slow pivot from the devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.
The budget’s health IT initiatives include broadband expansion, strengthening public health infrastructure and bolstering cybersecurity.
“For all of the hard-won progress our Nation has made in recent months, we cannot afford to simply return to the way things were before the pandemic and economic downturn, with the old economy’s structural weaknesses and inequities still in place,” the budget reads.
“We must seize this moment to reimagine and rebuild a new American economy – an economy that invests in the promise and potential of every single American; that leaves no one out and no one behind; and that makes it easier for families to break into the middle class and stay in the middle class.”
WHY IT MATTERS
The budget encompasses the American Jobs Plan – which includes putting $100 billion toward revitalizing digital infrastructure in the United States – and the American Families Plan, which would offer paid family and medical leave among other policy changes.
One of its major tenets is strengthening public health infrastructure.
It includes $8.7 billion in discretionary funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support core public health capacity improvements in states and territories, modernize public health data collection nationwide, train new epidemiologists and other public health experts, and rebuild international capacity for responding to threats.
$153 million would go toward the CDC’s Social Determinants of Health program to support states and territories in improving health equity and data collection for people of color.
It would launch the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, with $6.5 billion put toward federal research and development to drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs.
And it would provide an increase of $65 million from the 2021 enacted level for “Reconnect,” the Rural e‑Connectivity Program aimed at rural broadband.
From a cybersecurity perspective, the budget acknowledges existing threats – especially from other countries – and contains $9.8 billion in funding to secure federal civilian networks and protect the nation’s infrastructure. This includes $110 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and $750 million in additional investments specifically aimed at responding to what it calls “the SolarWinds incident.”
The administration recognizes the need for investment in federal IT, and includes $500 million for the Technology Modernization Fund.
“The TMF would continue to serve as the predominant vehicle for delivering improvements to public-facing digital services, enhancements to cross-government collaboration, and modern technology designed with security and privacy in mind,” the budget explains.
It also would put about $86 million toward the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT – a $25 million increase from previous years, as observed by Amazon’s Ben Moscovitch. About $13 million would go toward implementing the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement.
And it would push to lower the cost of prescription drugs; improve Medicare, Medicaid and Affordable Care Act coverage; and create other public coverage options.
THE LARGER TREND
Overall, the Biden administration has signaled its support for wide-ranging health IT initiatives, especially broadband.
In an April letter to Congress, Biden included a range of proposals, such as billions in funding for public health data modernization, broadband and 5G expansion, social determinants of health, cybersecurity and more.
Earlier this month, his administration quietly rolled out both a text line – launched alongside Vaccines.gov – and a call hotline to connect people with COVID-19 vaccines.
ON THE RECORD
“Importantly, even as the Administration pursues this historic agenda, the President also believes that there will be more to accomplish in the coming years,” reads the budget.
“This year’s Budget gives a full accounting of the first, critical steps our Nation must take to begin the work of building back better.”
Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.