The news was generally good coming from the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) policy watchers. They held an hour-long webinar following the 2016 general election to discuss the possible consequences the election could have on the health IT industry from a regulatory standpoint.
There appears to be bipartisan support among republicans and democrats as to the importance of health IT initiatives. Current legislation supports the adoption of telehealth as a way to improve delivery of rural and veteran healthcare. There is expected to be an increased focus on Cyber-security from the incoming administration. The consensus appeared to be that business would carry on as usual with some key caveats. However, the broad adoption and advocacy for sound health IT policy appeared to remain intact, despite the tectonic shift in government. The information provided by HIMSS covered policy proposals for the coming year, as well as the potential for certain bills to pass.
In the House of Representatives, Republicans retain their majority of seats, 239-192. Vulnerable health IT champions held their seats, such as Will Hurd (R-TX). Potential changes in committee leadership affecting healthcare policy are forthcoming.
Republicans maintained a narrow majority in the Senate, but did not attain the 60 seats required to prevent a filibuster. Hope remains that members of the Senate will be able to work across the aisle to pass legislation. The Senate HELP Committee will continue to be led by Lamar Alexander. However, Patty Murray may switch to another committee.
Incoming Democratic senator Tammy Duckworth from Illinois will bring with her health IT expertise, as someone who wrote her dissertation on EHR.
As Donald Trump takes office, the major healthcare policy to watch is how he and the Republican-led Congress approach his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This process will likely take 1-2 years to fully implement according to HIMSS’s Tom Leary, as a new regulatory framework will need to be created with required comment periods and time to respond to those comments. Approximately 20 million Americans would lose their health insurance if the ACA were repealed and not replaced with a coverage plan.
Other stated areas of focus by the incoming Trump administration, possibly affecting health IT, include:
- The push for value-based care; from volume to value
- Telehealth solutions, especially for veterans and rural communities
- Cyber security
- Infrastructure, economic growth and job creation
- Regulatory changes that make government smaller; narrowing or removing regulations
Legislation To Watch
Among some legislation be considered in the current lame duck session there are also upcoming initiatives being considered in Congress in the coming year that affect health IT policy. These include:
- ACA – The Affordable Care Act will likely not stay intact in its current form. There are some key aspects Trump discussed keeping (such as protections for those with pre-existing conditions), but uncertainty reigned in the early days of the transition.
- MACRA – The Medicare Access and CHIP Re-authorization Act is expected to remain intact through 2017. This is directed at creating healthier patients through medicare payout reform.
- Chronic Care Act – The Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act focuses highly on telemedicine delivery, and will likely receive bipartisan support in 2017 legislative sessions.
- 21st Century Cures Act – This bill just passed a House vote. It includes a biomedical innovation package, and there is interest among both House Speaker Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader McConnell to see this bill pass.