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SENATORS INTRODUCE BILL TO LIMIT AUTHORITY OF SECRETARY OF HHS: Last week, Senators Tom Coburn, MD (capitol webR-OK), John Barrasso, MD (R-WY), Rand Paul, MD (R-KY) and John Boozman, OD (R-AR), introduced, S. 2278, the Safeguarding Care of Patients Everywhere Act (SCOPE ACT). This legislation aims to protect the physician-patient relationship endangered by repealing section 1311(h) of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to the Senators, this provision grants the authority to the Health and Human Services Secretary to determine whether a doctor is providing “quality health care measures”  and can prohibit health insurers from working with medical providers who don’t meet Secretary-established criteria for quality. This Senate bill is a companion to a House bill that was previously introduced by Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R-GA). At this time there is little legislative activity to report; however, NASS will continue to monitor this legislation and provide any updates as they become available.

HOUSE BILL AIMS TO EXPAND AVAILABILITY OF MEDICARE DATA: Wisconsin Congressmen Paul Ryan (R) and Ron Kind (D) have teamed up and introduced bi-partisan legislation that is intended to improve quality by unlocking access restrictions to Medicare claims data. The bill, H.R. 4418, Expanding the Availability of Medicare Data Act, would open up Medicare claims data to certified Qualified Entities (QEs) to study provider data in specified regions. The text of this legislation is based largely on a provision that was included in HR 4015, the bipartisan, bicameral, comprehensive Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) replacement legislation. The two Congressmen are ardent proponents of making Medicare data more transparent to the public, and introduced this provision as a stand-alone bill after Congress failed to pass SGR repeal this year.

In addition to expanding the kinds of uses of Medicare data available to qualified entities for quality and patient care improvement activities, the bill would also:

  • Prohibit a qualified entity from charging a fee to provide Medicare claims data;
  • require a qualified entity and an authorized user to enter into a data use agreement; and
  • direct the Secretary to provide Medicare data to qualified clinical data registries.

More information about this bill can be found here. NASS is currently assessing this bill and will monitor future congressional activity.

HOUSE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING TO EXPLORE IMPROVING CARE THROUGH TELEMEDICINE: Panelists said during a hearing last week that improving and expanding coordination between health providers and advanced technology could enhance the overall quality of health care while driving down costs. The hearing, convened by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, was intended to explore the types of technology that can improve the quality of the current health care system. Members of the Subcommittee asked witnesses to identify specific policy and legislative ideas for the federal government that support technology adoption in health care programs and ways the government currently inhibits the use or adoption of such technologies by providers and beneficiaries. The committee Chairman and Ranking Members said that the committee was seeking public feedback on this issue and can be submitted to telemedicineideas2014@mail.house.gov. The deadline for submissions is on June 16, 2014.