The 114th Congress is in a unique position this coming year to both help the healthcare industry and possibly blunt it’s modernization. Most critical will be the final version of omnibus “fix it” package known as 21st Century Cures that will be addressing a wide variety of biomedical areas that include adding more money to Medicare for telemedicine and security issues.
From an IT perspective, legislators haven’t decided whether the FDA should regulate health IT, there's a possibility they will enact legislation making vendors responsible for defenses against cybersecurity attacks. At the same time, members of Congress are likely to try requiring that EMR vendors make their systems capable of speaking to each other. If passed, just like the provider sector had a very full plate with ICD 10 and meaningful use attestation, vendors will increasingly have to modernize to remain competitive.
From a provider perspective, expect Congress to relax Stark and other anti-kickback regulations so hospitals face no legal problems when they offer telehealth technology to physicians. Also expect to see Meaningful Use standards to be rolled back to help struggling practices and facilities as they modernize. Finally, congressional leaders also seem likely to expand reimbursement for telemedicine through Medicare just as they already have by issuing CMS Payment codes for chronic care management (99490) and remote monitoring (99091).
The 21st Century Cures bill hearings are the first time that Congress has taken a comprehensive look at what steps to take to accelerate the pace of innovating cures in America. They have had hearings that explore the need for primary basic science exploration, to streamlining the development and approval of medical devices and drugs, to supporting the deployment and use of digital medicine and social media to monitor and treat patients. Started in May 2014 we can expect this to take some time to complete...some benefits will occur right away and some when pigs fly. (A good summary of pending legislation can be found here.)
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