AHA Urges Congress to Take Steps to Reduce Regulatory Burden on Hospitals

Sept. 6, 2017
In a letter (PDF) to Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, who serves as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Health, the American Hospital Association (AHA) listed numerous areas in which lawmakers could take action to ease legislative and regulatory burdens on hospitals and health systems.

In a letter to Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, who serves as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Health, the American Hospital Association (AHA) listed numerous areas in which lawmakers could take action to ease legislative and regulatory burdens on hospitals and health systems.

The AHA wrote that the “regulatory burden faced by hospitals is substantial and unsustainable,” and, as one example, cited that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and other agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released 49 rules pertaining to hospitals and health systems, comprising almost 24,00 page of text.

“Hospitals recently have been granted some important regulatory relief, such as the implementation of a 12-month moratorium on the outdated long-term care hospital 25 percent Rule, as well as a 90-day reporting period and flexibility in the use of technology for the meaningful use program for fiscal year 2018. Yet, more work remains to be done,” the association wrote.

In the letter, AHA laid out actions that Congress could take to immediately reduce the regulatory burden on hospitals and health systems. The actions proposed range from cancelling Stage 3 of the meaningful use program, to postponing to re-evaluating post-acute care quality measurement requirements.

AHA’s health IT-related requests included the following:

  • Expand telehealth coverage under Medicare and Medicare Advantage
  • Remove the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s (HIPAA) current barriers to sharing patient information for clinically integrated care. AHA wants Congress to require HIPAA’s medical privacy regulation to permit a patient’s medical information to be used and disclosed to all participating providers in an integrated care setting without requiring individual patients to have a direct relationship with all of the organizations and providers that technically “use” and have access to the data.
  • Enact the reforms in the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act to fully align requirements for sharing patients’ substance use disorder treatment records with HIPAA regulations that allow the use of and disclosure of patient information for treatment. This would allow treating providers to access patients’ substance use disorder treatment records.
  • Require CMS to suspend the Hospital Star Ratings
  • Direct CMS to cancel Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program by removing the 2018 start date from the regulation. AHA also wants the Administration to institute a 90-day reporting period in every future year of the program, eliminate the all-or-nothing approach, and gather input from stakeholders on ways to further reduce the burden of MU program.
  • Suspend electronic clinical quality measure (eCQM) reporting requirements which requires hospitals to invest resources to annually update their technology and train their staff to collect and report eCQM data that does not accurately measure the quality of care for the measure topic.
  • Roll back CMS’ “overreach” on information blocking. AHA says that CMS is asking hospitals to attest to three separate statements regarding information blocking and that two of those attestations go beyond both statutory intent and the current capability of the technology hospitals have available to them.
  • Re-focus the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) on certification of electronic health records (EHRs). he AHA urges Congress to require that the work of ONC focus narrowly on standards and certification, including development of robust testing of products to show they are interoperable.

The AHA also requests that Congress ensure that any new bundled payment programs are voluntary. “Hospitals should not be forced to bear the expense of participation in these complicated programs if they do not believe they will benefit patients,” the association wrote.

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