August Heat Continues as Unfinished Healthcare Issues Remain Unresolved

The August heat is upon us here in the nation’s capital, and lawmakers have left town for their summer recess. The Senate was able to tie up some loose ends before leaving, including the passage of the Food and Drug Administration Reauthorization Act (FDARA), while leaving uncertainty regarding the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), which expires at the end of the September – and of course, regarding the future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Of interest to the CIO community is the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee’s new initiative to reduce burdensome Medicare regulations and mandates. Reducing regulatory burden has been a theme of both the Trump administration and lawmakers thus far in 2018, and we’ve seen a number of efforts undertaken with this goal in mind. The “Medicare Red Tape Relief Project” is focused on reducing legislative and regulatory burdens on Medicare providers while improving the efficiency and quality of the Medicare program. The Committee is asking doctors, nurses, and other health professionals:

  1. How Congress can deliver statutory relief from the mandates established in law through their legislative authority.
  2. How Congress can work with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to deliver regulatory relief through administrative action.

The Committee has requested stakeholder feedback by Friday, Aug. 25.

Furthermore, we expect Congress to keep a close watch on the Quality Payment Program within the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) as the first program year comes to close and the proposed rule for the second year remains under consideration by stakeholders. Similarly, now more than six months after the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, Congress is making sure the appropriate agencies are carrying out the intentions of the law.

The other elephant in the room is the appropriations process and the 2018 budget. Add to that the need to raise the debt ceiling.

As there are some “must-pass” pieces of healthcare legislation remaining for 2017, folks here in Washington are spending their summer wondering what other policies could be considered with the CHIP reauthorization or the Medicare extenders. Could something like the Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to. Improve Chronic (CHRONIC) Care Act, which has some telehealth expansion policies, be included? Is this the year for that? Will we see healthcare cybersecurity become a pressing issue for lawmakers?

With us Washingtonians breathing a sigh of relief now that both chambers finally have left town, there remains both anxiety about the level of uncertainty of things like the PPACA and the 2018 budget – but also a cautious optimism that some of the animosity may subside and some bipartisan healthcare proposals, including some on health IT, may come up for consideration when lawmakers return in September.

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