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Washington Debrief: Senate Hearing to Evaluate HIE Set for This Week

June 8, 2015
by Leslie Kriegstein, Interim Vice President of Public Policy
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Congressional Affairs

Senate Hearing to Evaluate Health Information Exchange Set for Wednesday

Key Takeaway: This week the Senate HELP Committee will hear from a panel of experts to evaluate solutions for improving health information exchange.

Why It Matters: In the latest iteration of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s efforts to reform health IT policy, the Committee announced a hearing to focus on health information exchange.

In the latest hearing in its work on electronic medical records, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hear from witnesses including CHIME member Craig Richardville, CIO at Carolinas Healthcare System, representing Premier Healthcare Alliance.

The Senate HELP Committee hearing entitled, “Health Information Exchange: A Path towards Improving the Quality and Value of Health Care for Patients,” will be held on Wednesday, June 10, and feature testimony from CHIME member Craig Richardville, CIO at Carolinas Healthcare System, representing Premier Healthcare Alliance.

Meanwhile, the House Committee on Energy & Commerce will continue their work on the 21st Century Cures bill that includes a provision on health IT interoperability. The legislation, expected to be considered by the full House the week of June 15, would:

  • Define interoperability
  • Direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to enter into contracts with Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) to identify and develop the best available standards
  • Decertify vendor products that do not meet the standards for interoperability
  • Penalizes providers for “information blocking”

While the House nears a decision on 21st Century Cures, the Senate has just begun their effort, known as the Health Americans Initiative, which is expected to continue through the end of 2015.

Visit CHIME’s Proposed Rules, Regulations and Legislation page here for more information.

Congressional Focus on ICD-10 Implementation Continues

Key Takeaway: A key Congressional Committee continues to express concern about CMS’ readiness for a seamless implementation of ICD-10 on Oct. 1, 2015.

Why It Matters: Two new bills and a letter signed by 13 members of the House Committee on Ways & Means Committee were released last week illustrating Congressional concerns about the readiness of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement ICD-10 coding this October.

Ways & Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX-8) penned a letter with 12 other members of the Committee requesting CMS “instill confidence – especially among physicians – that the October 1, 2015 ICD-10 diagnosis code implementation will not cause wide spread disruption.” Calling for an increase in end-to-end testing opportunities as well as a contingency plan in the event that claims processed after Oct. 1, 2015 lapse.

Further, two members of the Ways & Means Committee, Representatives Gary Palmer (R-AL-6) and George Holding (R-NC-13) have introduced legislative proposals to provide grace periods or safe harbors from audits resulting from coding errors. The Palmer bill boasts 32 Republican cosponsors, while the Holding bill has yet to be formally introduced into the House.

Last week CMS released the results of the April ICD-10 end-to-end testing week, citing more than 23,000 test claims were received and only less than two percent were rejected due to an invalid ICD-10 code submission.

Hackers of Government Database Said to Be Same as Premera, Anthem

Key Takeaway: Congressional leaders have resumed calls for cybersecurity legislation focused on the sharing cyber threat indicators following a data breach of an estimated four million records at the Office of Personal Management (OPM) announced last week.

Why It Matter: Senate leaders are calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring legislation providing liability protection for organizations that share cyber threats with the government and their industry peers to the Senate floor for a vote immediately.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) of 2015 (S. 754), would incent increased information sharing by granting safe harbors and liability protection for organizations willing to share details of cyber threats with the government and other private sector entities. The legislation takes a sector agnostic approach and does not incorporate any health-specific accommodations. Proponents cite reputational threats and lawsuits as reasons hindering an increase in the current volume of threat information sharing.

The suspected China-based hackers breached U.S. Office of Personnel Management computers stealing records of as many as four million current and former federal employees in one of the largest breaches of government personnel data. This latest breach comes on the heels of another notable healthcare breach at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield bringing the estimate of compromised patient records to 95 million.

Meanwhile, the Senate HELP Committee launched an oversight initiative on the security of health IT last February. In April, Senators Lamar Alexander, the Committee Chair, and Ranking Member, Patty Murray requested the GAO evaluate ongoing threats and the reforms needed to improve the security of health IT systems.

Federal Affairs

Final ACO Rule Released by CMS Last Week

Key Takeaway: According to CMS, the 592-page Medicare Shared Shavings Program (MSSP) final rule released last week features an enhanced focus on primary care services and additional program flexibility.

Why It Matters: The final MSSP rule requires program applicants to explain how Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) will employ health information technology to improve care coordination.

CMS added a new requirement for ACOs to define how they will use technologies and services in their applications, including EHRs, telehealth services, health information exchange services, or other electronic tools to engage patients in their care. Further, the final rule dictates that ACOs must define plans for partnering with long-term and post-acute care providers and set targets such as projected dates for establishing electronic quality reporting.

According to CMS, 400 ACOs are participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program, serving over seven million beneficiaries. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration earlier announced the goal of tying 30 percent of Medicare payments to quality and value through alternative payment models, such as ACOs, by 2016 and 50 percent of payments by 2018.

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