Stakeholders Divided as Lawmakers Mark Up 21st Century Cures Bill

May 20, 2015 in News

On Tuesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee members discussed changes to the 21st Century Cures Act (HR 6), including the bill’s interoperability provisions, Politico‘s “Morning eHealth” reports (Allen et al., “Morning eHealth,” Politico, 5/20).


In April, the committee released draft legislation for the 21st Century Cures initiative with provisions to alter FDA’s oversight of health software products, but left out provisions on interoperability and telehealth.

However, the committee last week released an updated draft of the 21st Century Cures Act that filled placeholders for several provisions, including those related to interoperability. The revised draft legislation still lacks language to expand Medicare beneficiaries’ access to telehealth, but it does call for studies of such services.

The House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee approved the draft bill by voice vote, sending it on to the full committee (iHealthBeat, 5/14).

The committee is scheduled to hold a final markup of the bill on Thursday.

House Committee Hearing Details

During the House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting on Tuesday, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), who authored the bill’s interoperability language, said that it would give the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT $10 million to contract with a private sector “health care standards development organization” to develop interoperability criteria, which health IT vendors would be required to meet by 2018.

According to “Morning eHealth,” Burgess wants to eliminate ONC’s Health IT Standards Committee (“Morning eHealth,” Politico, 5/20).

Stakeholder Groups Comment on Legislative Package

In a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.), American Hospital Association Executive Vice President Rick Pollack called some enforcement provisions for providers designed to further interoperability “inappropriate.” He wrote that AHA is “concerned that the heavy-handed and duplicative enforcement mechanisms contemplated for providers could have significant unintended consequences, including undermining new models of care and setting up an environment where well-intentioned providers face significant penalties for small mistakes” (AHA News, 5/19).

In a statement, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society also cautioned against the measure’s interoperability provisions.

According to HIMSS, such provisions — and others in the bill — “may be overly complex, exclude critical stakeholders and may cause inhibiting disruptions in the marketplace” (Slabodkin [1], Health Data Management, 5/15).

HIMSS also raised concerns about the 21st Century Cures Act’s “narrow scope of … language” regarding telehealth (Slabodkin [2], Health Data Management, 5/15).

However, the Premier health care alliance applauded lawmakers for including interoperability language in the updated 21st Century Cures Act.

Keith Figlioli, Premier’s senior vice president of health care informatics, said the group “strongly urge[s]” the full committee to support the language, noting that with such “interoperability standards, providers will be in a much better position to manage population health … and support advanced payment initiatives” (Premier statement, 5/18).

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