October 17, 2013
Farzad Mostashari, the former National Coordinator of the ONC, went on a surprise attack last week during his remarks at the CHIME conference in Scottsdale. His target: the “out-of-business” status of the federal government over the last weeks, and long term budgeting issues that are hampering ONC’s work in managing healthcare transformation.
“Can I talk about ONC’s budget?” he declaimed, interrupting his own comments about the need to work together towards Meaningful Use / MIPS. “I guess I would say, because I’m no longer with the government, I can be pretty blunt about this.”
As a preamble, Mostashari noted that the federal shutdown had prevented him even from finding someone to whom he should give his badge on his last day of work at ONC.
He continued: “Maybe you’ve noticed, but… our certification process is furloughed right now. The ONC standards work has stopped. The policy work has stopped. Not having a budget, people don’t see it. There’s so much other work of government that people don’t see, and you only see when failures occur. And then you are like, so where’s the government?”
Visibly startling many of the hospital CIOs and healthcare vendors in the room, Mostashari volunteered the details of ONC’s continuing budget worries. “The ONC budget is $60 million. Year after year the ONC budget has been $60 million, $60 million. That’s the entire ONC budget to do all of the standards work, all of the coordination work, the certification work, all of it.”
Mostashari fumed about the irony of the ONC budget as compared to the size of the industry it serves: “The thought of a $3 trillion healthcare industry, a $30 billion health IT industry, and you can’t get funding for the government agency that’s responsible for that, is really problematic…. I really worry about this continuing budget by crisis. It’s no way to run a railroad.”
“The budgets are not only capped, they’re frozen. It’s like having a household budget for diapers and your kid is in grade school now, but you still have to have a diaper budget and you can’t have a school book budget.”