The VA Cerner implementation contract jumped from $10 billion to $16 billion, according to a recent House Appropriations hearing.By Kate Monica
March 21, 2018 - The price tag for the VA Cerner implementation contract has spiked by 60 percent, judging by testimony given at a recent House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
In her opening statement, House Military Construction and VA Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) revealed the cost of VA’s EHR modernization project had increased $6 billion above what was initially expected to be a $10 billion contract.
“The FY 2019 budget requests $1.2 billion to continue the massive implementation, preparation, development, interface, management, rollout, and maintenance of a veteran’s electronic healthcare record system which is excruciatingly long overdue,” said Wasserman Schultz.
“We’re talking about a $16 billion project,” she emphasized.
In his testimony, Shulkin did not dispute the cost of the contract identified by Wasserman Schultz. Shulkin also did not specify where the additional $6 billion comes from, or what aspect of the Cerner implementation the amount is intended to fund.
In addition to the cost of the contract, Shulkin also addressed plans to ensure interoperability between VA, the Department of Defense (DoD), and health systems in the private sector. Specifically, Shulkin outlined plans to reduce information blocking by private health systems.
“We understand that a big challenge to interoperability with the private sector is that private health networks tend to hoard data for competitive advantage and incentives would be required to change their behavior,” said House Military Construction and VA Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman and Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA).
“What incentives could you bring to the table to modify private health network behavior in this regard?” Dent continued.
Shulkin emphasized that the VA Cerner contract — which is still being finalized — will include language expressly prohibiting information blocking.