Friday, January 18, 2019

Senate Health Committee Introducing New Healthcare Funding Bill

Bill provides five years of funding for Community Health Centers, Teaching Health Centers, National Health Service Corps, and Special Diabetes Programs which help keep care within reach for millions

Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today introduced legislation that will extend for five years federal funding for community health centers, and four other federal health programs, that are set to expire at the end of the fiscal year.

“This legislation is the first step in ensuring millions of Americans can continue to have access to quality health care they can afford close to their homes,” Alexander said. “There are 1,400 community health centers that provide health care services at about 12,000 sites to approximately 27 million Americans, including to 400,000 Tennesseans in 2016. Many of these centers serve patients in rural areas who otherwise would have to travel far distances to access health care. This legislation will also extend funding for health care workforce programs that community health centers rely on.”

“These programs help recruit and retain health professionals to serve in underserved areas and across the country, support research and services to manage diabetes, and make sure families can get the care they need, in their communities, close to home. I’ve heard from families throughout Washington state about how grateful they are to have a community health center close at hand with providers who know and understand their families and communities, so I’m glad we are introducing bipartisan legislation that gives these programs the stability they need to continue recruiting providers and serving their communities for years to come,” Murray said.

This legislation would provide five years of mandatory funding for the:

  • Community Health Center program;
  • National Health Service Corps;
  • Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program;
  • Special Diabetes Program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and
  • Special Diabetes Program for Indians.
  • Mandatory funding for the programs is set to expire after September 30, 2019.

The Committee will hold a hearing on this legislation to hear from program experts on January 29, 2019.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Congress Questions ONC on Implementing 21st Century Cures Act

On Tuesday, December 11, the House Energy & Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health held a hearing capping off its oversight of 21st Cures implementation for the outgoing 115th Congress by focusing on the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The witness was Donald Rucker MD, the National Coordinator for Health IT.

Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said in his opening statement: "The fundamental value proposition of Electronic Health Record systems is the continuity of evidence-based care, however, patient health data continue to be fragmented and difficult to access for health care providers and patients themselves. The functionality of EHR systems lags behind the technological capabilities presently available, and until we close that gap I do not see how we can truly recognize the potential of clinical registries, payment reform, or health information exchanges."

Committee members had the opportunity to learn more about health information technology policies (HIT) and the work ONC has done in implementing Cures HIT provisions. Member questioning largely focused on health data privacy and security, physician burden, and patient access to their health data. Dr. Rucker was unable to provide members with any specifics on the information blocking rule currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget. Now with the partial government shutdown still under way at the time of this writing, I don't expect it will see the light of day in the near future.

Dr. Rucker's testimony and some Q&A is below: