HHS Releases Finalized Interoperability Rules

The long-awaited final rules from CMS and HHS’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (“ONC”) were released this morning. The agencies unveiled final versions of companion interoperability and information-blocking proposals.

The ONC rule implements Conditions and Maintenance of Certification requirements for health information technology developers. The CMS final rule requires hospitals to send electronic admissions as well as discharge and transfer notifications to primary care providers.

Emergency Coronavirus Spending Bill Signed into Law

On March 6, President Trump signed the emergency supplemental spending bill responding to the coronavirus outbreak. The package (H.R. 6074) provides $8.3 billion in federal assistance dedicated to combating coronavirus. The measure contains about $3.2 billion to help public health agencies contain and treat the disease, including almost $1 billion to buy medical supplies. There is over $3 billion for research and development into drug treatments, testing and developing an eventual vaccine. Notably, the bill modifies Medicare telehealth reimbursement restrictions for coronavirus-related cases.

Beyond this package, the Trump administration is also looking at potential economic measures that could assist individuals who lose out on pay as well as industries most hindered by the virus. Two House panels, the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees, are working on legislation to lower the cost of care associated with coronavirus.

Lawmakers Urge Administration to Pump Breaks on Medicaid Transportation RFI

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, Reps. Buddy Carter (R-GA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Tom Graves (R-GA) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA), are asking the administration to support the requirement that states provide non-emergency medical transportation to Medicaid beneficiaries. CMS’s fall 2019 regulatory agenda indicated that CMS plans to release a Request for Information asking about the necessity of non-emergency medical transportation benefits in Medicaid. The group encouraged the administration “to delay any and all action on the proposed request for information” and possible proposed rules in this area.

The lawmakers are also the original co-sponsors of the Protecting Patients Transportation to Care Act (H.R. 3935), which they hope to pass as part of a legislative package when health extenders funding is set to expire in May. The bill would codify a longstanding regulation that requires state Medicaid agencies to cover non-emergency medical transportation.

Health-Related Bills Introduced Last Week

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced H.R. 6102 to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide for the regulation of in vitro clinical tests.

Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA) introduced H.R. 6098 to amend Title XXI of the Social Security Act to allow states to expand income eligibility standards under the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA) introduced H.R. 6090, the Physician Shortage GME Cap Flex Act of 2020.

Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) introduced H.R. 6080 to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to reduce drug shortages.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) introduced H.R. 6049, the Medical Supply Chain Security Act.

The Week Ahead

  • The coronavirus is forcing many health care-related events to cancel, such as the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference, where President Trump was slated to speak.
  • Again this week, there will be multiple hearings related to the coronavirus. Those include a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on virus preparedness and U.S. biodefense on Tuesday.
  • FY 2021 Appropriations Hearings: The House Appropriations Labor, HHS and Education Committee will hold a hearing on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Budget Request for FY 2021 on Tuesday. The FDA Commissioner will also testify before the House Appropriations Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee.
  • On Wednesday, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing on “Resilience and Coping: Mental Health of Women Veterans.”
  • Also on Wednesday, the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections will hold a hearing on “The Healthy Families Act (H.R. 1784): Examining a Plan to Secure Paid Sick Leave for U.S. Workers.”
  • On Thursday, the Senate Budget Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the GAO’s annual report on the nation’s fiscal health.