Washington Debrief: Congressional Interest Remains for 90-day Reporting in 2016

June 13, 2016
Congressional leaders continue to press the Administration and their colleagues to provide relief for Meaningful Use program participants through a shortened reporting period in 2016.

Congressional Interest Remains for 90-day Reporting in 2016

Key Takeaway: Congressional leaders continue to press the Administration and their colleagues to provide relief for Meaningful Use program participants through a shortened reporting period in 2016.

Why It Matters: With the 2016 legislative calendar rapidly expiring, Congressional leaders, included Congressman Tom Price, M.D. (R-GA-06), continue to advocate for a shortened reporting period for all Meaningful Use program participants in 2016.

Dr. Price used his time during last week’s Committee on Ways and Means member day to discuss the important of the Flexibility in EHR Reporting Act of 2016 (H.R. 5001/S.2822), which would create a 90-day reporting period in Meaningful Use this year. There's currently a full-year reporting period. He called it a "common sense and bipartisan" way to fix doctors' concerns with EHRs. The legislation has 17 bipartisan cosponsors in the House. 

Prohibition on Use of Federal Funds for Health Identifier Remains Included in Appropriations Bill

Key Takeaway: The FY17 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (LHHS) appropriations bill, which was passed by the Senate Committee on Appropriations again included language prohibiting HHS from employing a health identifier for patients.

Why It Matters: Continuing the trend of the past 17 years, the Senate LHHS appropriations bill, which funds the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education, contained the prohibition baring HHS from using federal funds on the promulgation of a health identifier for patients.
Section 510 of the proposed bill, which was passed by the full Senate Appropriations Committee last week says:

None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to promulgate or adopt any final standard under section 1173(b) of the Social Security Act providing for, or providing for the assignment of, a unique health identifier for an individual (except in an individual’s capacity as an employer or a health care provider), until legislation is enacted specifically approving the standard.

Other notable provisions include funding of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) at roughly $60 million, approximately the same as the current funding level.

The House Committee on Appropriations has not yet begun formally considering their HHS funding legislation, but Committee leadership has indicated that markups may occur before the end of June.

Congress Considering How Health IT Can Help in War on Opioid Abuse; Weigh-In to Help CHIME Develop Policy Positions

Key Takeaway: A number of legislative proposals in both the House and Senate explore how health information technology use can be expanded to aid in the nation’s fight against opioid abuse.

Why It Matters: Congressional leaders are in the midst of conferencing their chamber’s approved legislative proposals to address the growing opioid crisis. Proposal include everything from increased access to rehabilitation services to the need to integrate data from prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) directly into the provider’s electronic health record (EHR.)

In the funding bill passed by the Senate Committee on Appropriations last week provides an additional $76 million to prescription drug monitoring programs. The bill also calls on Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to study how telemedicine can help prevent opioid abuse.

A few of the legislative proposals that CHIME is evaluating are below:

  • Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (S.524) – Passed by Senate by Margin of 94-1 on March 10, 2016
    • Title XVIII – Directs HHS to include, in the criteria for grant funding for states, a plan to apply the latest advances in health information technology in order to incorporate prescription drug monitoring program data directly into the workflow of prescribers and dispensers to ensure timely access to patients’ controlled prescription drug history. This must apply to and at least one health information technology system such as an electronic health records system, a health information exchange, or an e-prescribing system.
  • Jessie’s Law (S. 2866/H.R. 5142) – Introduced into the House and Senate in April 2016
    • Expands Consent – Would allow oral consent, and expands who can grant consent for the sharing of patient data.
    • Standards of Addiction History – HHS shall develop and disseminate standards to prominently display addiction history in patient medical records, including the EHR.

Federal Affairs

CHIME Responds to ONC RFI on Interoperability

Key Takeaway: MACRA calls for ONC to measure interoperability.  CHIME offered our perspective in our comment letter.

Why it Matters: MACRA calls for achieving widespread exchange of health information through interoperable certified EHRs (CEHRTs) nationwide by December 31, 2018. The law also requires that by July 1, 2016, ONC create metrics to determine whether this goal has been met. If interoperability has not been achieved by December 31, 2018, then they must submit a report to Congress by December 31, 2019, identifying barriers to this objective and recommending actions that the federal government can take to achieve it. CHIME’s recommendations around how ONC should measure interoperability are summarized below: 

1. Accurate patient identification is crucial to interoperability.

2. Measuring interoperability must go beyond “meaningful users.”

3. Measuring transactions is insufficient. 

4. Data exchange must be useful to clinicians.

5. More information is needed to understand how clinicians use exchanged data.

6. Existing measurement information should be used to compliment any ONC measurement efforts. 

Update on Precision Medicine

Key Takeaway: Vice President Biden announces The Genomic Data Commons, a data sharing platform, as part of his Cancer Moonshot initiative, in a recent fact sheet.

Why it Matters: The White House describes the effort as creating, “a foundational system for broad sharing and analysis of tumor genome sequences (the DNA unique to cancer cells), which is critical for advancing the field of precision medicine and improving the care of cancer patients, and is designed with appropriate privacy and security protections.”  A National Cancer Institute blog elaborates by stating, “The datasets will lead to a much deeper understanding of which therapies are most effective for individual cancer patients, and with each new addition the GDC will evolve into a smarter, more comprehensive knowledge system that will foster important discoveries in cancer research and increase the success of cancer treatment for patients.”

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