Home > EHR, meaningful use, Medicare > Senate HELP Committee Prepares to Advance Health IT/Interoperability Legislation

Senate HELP Committee Prepares to Advance Health IT/Interoperability Legislation

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) is preparing to markup health IT/interoperability legislation on February 9 based on their recent discussion draft. The draft bill incorporated language from the Transparent Ratings on Usability and Security to Transform Information Technology (TRUST IT) Act, including the information blocking prohibitions supported by the American College of Radiology (ACR). The ACR submitted comments on January 29.

The committee’s discussion draft revised TRUST IT’s definition of “information blocking” to create two distinct categories based on entity type – one for developers/vendors/HIE networks, and one for providers (e.g., hospitals and health systems). Developers would be held accountable for essentially the same behaviors covered by the earlier TRUST IT Act (including blocking via ignorance/disregard), and providers would be held accountable for only “knowingly and unreasonably restricting” information exchange. HHS, through rulemaking, would identify reasonable and necessary actions by developers that are not information blocking, as well as a set of specified actions that are information blocking by providers.

The draft legislation also mandates different penalties based on entity type. Developers/vendors/exchange networks that engage in information blocking would receive civil monetary penalties in an amount determined to be a sufficient deterrent by HHS. Providers would be subject to a “sufficient deterrent”—but not specifically fines—under HHS’ existing authority. A “sufficient deterrent” could potentially mean consideration and penalization through the existing incentive programs for information-blocking actions, or it could mean something else within HHS’ current authority.

ACR’s comments to the committee reaffirmed the College’s support for the earlier TRUST IT version of the information blocking prohibition, which held hospitals and health systems accountable for blocking resulting from ignorance and reckless disregard, and penalized such entities for each blocking infraction by up to $10,000. That said, the committee’s legislation will be viewed as the evolved state of play moving forward, and reverting to the TRUST IT language is exceedingly unlikely. While the details of the TRUST IT Act language are preferable, ACR is generally supportive of the committee’s efforts to address information blocking in some manner, and will continue to work with policymakers to proliferate interoperability and exchange.

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Categories: EHR, meaningful use, Medicare
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