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Washington Debrief: Cures Bill Addresses Interoperability, Information Blocking and Threatens Decertification

May 18, 2015
by Leslie Kriegstein, Interim Vice President of Public Policy
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Congressional Affairs:

Cures Bill Addresses Interoperability, Information Blocking and Threatens Decertification

Key Takeaway: A bill that would establish new criteria for interoperability cleared the first hurdle toward passage last week, as the 21st Century Cures initiative was unanimously approved by the Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee.

Why it Matters: The proposed legislation contains a number of provision relative to interoperability that could impact the existing business and clinical practices employed within care settings with the intention of increasing access to patient health data.

The provision championed by Representative Michael Burgess (R-TX-26), would set new criteria for interoperability: “Secure Transfer,” “Complete Access to Health Data” and “No Information Blocking.” Further, it would establish a new organization under the leadership of the National Committee on Vital Health Statistics (NVCHS) that would identify “methods” and metrics by which products would be certified as interoperable or not-interoperable.

In 2018, the Secretary of the Deparment of Health and Human Services (HHS) would publish a list of vendors in compliance and those not in compliance with the “methods” relative to interoperability and by 2019, vendors can be decertified. If a provider’s product becomes decertified, they can apply for a hardship exemption for up to five years to avoid penalties under the meaningful use program.

The bill seeks to combat the practices of information blocking, by enforcing civil and monetary penalties on providers, hospitals, health information system providers and vendors who have been found to partake in information blocking practices. The bill outlines the criteria for information blocking as below:

  1. Interfere with the exchange of electronic health information;
  2. The actor knows or should know is likely to interfere with the exchange or use of electronic health information; and,
  3. Do not serve to protect patient safety, maintain the privacy and security of individuals’ health information or promote competition and consumer welfare.

The bill largely avoids changes to the meaningful use program and neglects to acknowledge the ongoing challenge to data exchange posed by the lack of a national patient identification strategy.

The legislation is still under development, as Committee staff seek to incorporate stakeholder input on the items proposed. The legislation was approved the Health Subcommittee on May 14th and is likely to be approved by the full Energy & Commerce Committee this week. Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-6) has indicated that the bill could pass the House this summer.

HHS’ ICD-10 Preparedness Subject of New House Bill

Key Takeaway: Policymakers continue to question the readiness of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) readiness to process ICD-10 claims beginning on October 1, 2015.

Why it Matters: The legislation introduced by Representative Diane Black (R-TN-6) would require HHS to conduct comprehensive, end-to-end testing to declare to Congress their readiness to accept ICD-10 claims. The legislation wouldn’t change the October implementation date for ICD-10.

The ICD-TEN Act does not delay implementation, but proposes an 18 month safe harbor for the inaccurate reporting of sub codes. HHS is given 18 months from October 1, 2015 to declare whether the system is fully functional, which is defined as the volume of claims accepted under ICD-10 is equal to or greater than, the percentage of claims accepted under ICD-9 codes during the previous calendar year.

Federal Affairs:

Federal Advisors Recommend Changes to Proposed MU Rules

Key Takeaway: Members of the Health IT Policy and Standards Committees reviewed proposals for Stage 3 meaningful use last week, issuing a bevy of recommended changes.  Generally, requirements for care coordination through patient engagement and health information exchange were considered to be too difficult as proposed.

Why it Matters: Seeing that federal advisors are more aligned with discussions outside Washington, DC is a promising sign that positive changes can be made to Stage 3 requirements. CHIME and AMDIS will soon publish comments of its own to help members form their own opinions.