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Senate HELP Committee Examines Administration’s Interoperability Proposals

This week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on recent proposed rules from CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) focused on health IT interoperability. The hearing examined how the proposed rules implement interoperability provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act that were developed by the HELP Committee. Witnesses at the hearing were Don Rucker, MD, national coordinator for health IT, and Kate Goodrich, MD, CMS chief medical officer and director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality.

During the hearing, Senators expressed concerns about potential data privacy and security issues and wondered whether patients were aware of how and with what apps their personal health data could be shared. Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) encouraged the agencies to work to address privacy concerns and suggested that the proposed January 2020 implementation date for the proposals in these rules may be too soon to ensure the Senators’ privacy concerns are resolved.

As a reminder, ASCRS ASOA submitted comments on the proposed rules that expressed support for the agencies’ efforts to improve the flow of electronic health information but cautioned that the two agencies, and HHS as a whole, may be too optimistic about patients’ ability to use electronic health data, such as claims, to make informed decisions about their healthcare. We noted that claims and cost data only illustrate some aspects of care and without quality data, patients will not have a full picture of their healthcare data. Furthermore, we noted that Medicare Part B’s set fee schedule, and ophthalmologists’ inability to negotiate prices with insurers under Medicare Advantage, will likely mean that even given enough data, patients will not have many options for care because there are set fee schedules and narrow networks, and plans may limit treatment options through step therapy and prior authorization. We will keep you updated.

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