HHS Nominee Appears Before Senate Finance Committee
Key Takeaway: For the second time in as many weeks, Dr. Tom Price (R-GA), spent more than three hours outlining his vision for the nation’s healthcare system before a Senate Committee, as President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS.)
Why It Matters: Dr. Tom Price, positioned to become the next Secretary of HHS, has consistently been a vocal proponent of decreasing the regulatory burden, echoing past statements during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Finance last week.
In response to a question from Senator Pat Roberts (R-GA) that cited the Meaningful Use program as an example of burdensome rulemaking, Dr. Price said that the existing regulatory scheme is suffocating individual providers. He continued that Meaningful Use has turned physicians into data entry clerks and that recognizes that overly taxing regulations are a problem. In response to a question from Senator John Thune (R-SD) about critical access hospitals (CAHs), Dr. Price again referenced information technology as an important transformational force in delivering better care to patients, specifically mentioning telemedicine and telestroke services.
Awaiting a vote from the Finance Committee on Tuesday, Dr. Price’s nomination is likely to be sent to the Senate floor for consideration by the full Senate in coming weeks.
Key Takeaway: Things are in a holding pattern at CMS until new leadership is in place. The entire federal government (minus military, public safety and national security) is under new hiring freeze which included CMS. No word yet on when President Trump’s nominee to lead CMS, Seema Verma, will have her confirmation hearing.
Why it Matters: The day before the inauguration the now former CMS Administrator and ONC Director penned a joint blog post which appeared on the CMS website discussing their vision for data collected through an EHR. By the Monday following the inauguration, the post which had outlined the following priority areas, had been taken down:
- Seamless the interaction between care solutions and other entities, including through standardized APIs.
- Grow third-party entities to meet provider data access and reporting needs.
- Leverage shared services to aggregate and link data.
- Improve data transparency and data consolidation.
- Standardize key data needed for quality measurement.
- Align quality measures across payers.
Key Takeaway: Executive order to be published on cybersecurity.
Why it Matters: CHIME has learned the President is expected to sign an executive order focused on cybersecurity and “identifying, disrupting, and defeating malicious attacks” against our nation. The EO will call for an initial set of recommendations for the enhanced protection of the most critical public and private infrastructure to be submitted to the Department of Homeland Security within 60 days.
Senators Introduce Bill to Establish Permanent Senate Cybersecurity Committee
Key Takeaway: Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced legislation that would create a Senate Select Committee on Cybersecurity that would have specific oversight over cybersecurity issues
Why It Matters: Under the current Senate Committee structure in the 115th Congress, multiple Senate Committees have jurisdiction over cybersecurity and cyberspace. More than 20 hearings in Committees across the House and Senate addressed cybersecurity in the 114th Congress.
The bill would establish a narrowly-focused committee is to oversee the nation’s data breach prevention and cybersecurity strategies.
In the House, efforts are underway to consolidate cybersecurity activities within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX.) Last week he cited that the establishment of a cybersecurity and infrastructure protection agency within DHS is priority for the 115th Congress.
Key Takeaway: CHIME has the 411 on OCR’s future plans.
Why it Matters: While the new Administration has ordered to freeze on pending regulations, agencies still must continue working. OCR has shared that their plans – as they see it now - for future guidance and rulemaking which we recap for you below. Things are always subject to change once new political leadership is put in place. Present day plans out described below.
Audits: OCR is wrapping up their desk audits of covered entities (CEs) and will publish a report on their findings this summer. They are in the process of performing desk audits of business associates (BAs) and plan to have that wrapped up by May. They have postponed their plans to do on-site audits at this time and don’t expect to do them in 2017.
Guidance: OCR has the following guidance in the pipeline:
- Access rights – Will attempting to clarify confusion over access rights involving when a patient requests access to their information by directing it be sent to a third party vs authorizations for sharing vs. when a third party requests direct access to a patient’s protected health information (PHI)
- Text messaging – Will cover texting between CEs and between patients and CEs. Expect it follow what is allowable for emails.
- Social media – Will tackle questions around how to treat PHI when patients post it to social media.
- Body cameras – Questions have arisen over patient privacy when law enforcement officials have entered hospitals with body cameras. OCR will detail their expectations in these scenarios.
- “Anatomy of a case” – OCR plans to publish guidance that walks readers through their thinking from start to finish and how they arrived at a corrective action plan and a settlement amount.
- Mobile aps – OCR plans to continue clarifying their policies around for mobile app developers.
- 21st Century Cures – At this time they expect to handle their obligations through guidance, not rulemaking.
Regulation: OCR has a number of statutory obligations stemming from HITECH.
- Penalties – Expect a notice of proposed rulemaking. They are actively seeking input into this.
- Accounting for disclosures – This is a longer-term regulatory item.