• Julie Barnes

June 25, 2021

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters In Health Information Policy

A fan of the Foo Fighters, who attended their sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden this past Sunday night (Father’s Day), quoted lead singer Dave Grohl in a tweet: “If we can keep our [colorful expletives deleted despite the recent Supreme Court decision allowing even high school cheerleaders to use the f-bomb] together we can do this more often.” It was a reference to the large, all-vaccinated audience, who were required to show either their vaccination card or New York State’s Excelsior Pass, to rock out (maskless) with 15,000 other fans. The Wall Street Journal reported that “[s]everal fans said the vaccination requirement made them feel more comfortable buying tickets and enjoying themselves freely.” A Captain Obvious moment, but it counts as news these days.

Less obvious news includes:

  1. CMS released additional FAQs on its interoperability rule, focusing on the rule’s payer-to-payer API and public reporting of digital contact information requirements.

  2. A new article describes which health information the HIPAA privacy rule protects and doesn’t protect. It will help you play true or false (that's a boring version of Truth or Dare) with your friends at your next dinner party.

  3. Four federal agencies are not waiting for Congress to pass drug pricing legislation. This joint announcement invites suggestions (hurry, you have less than 30 days) on which data should be collected about pharmacy benefits and prescription drug costs so health plans can negotiate fairer rates and lower out-of-pocket costs for regular people.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

Back to the Foo Fighters, who attracted a multi-generational sold-out crowd last Sunday night, in no small part because they required proof of vaccination or, for the under-16 fans, a negative COVID-19 test. As vaccinations are increasingly required (just ask Houston Methodist Hospital employees, who can get vaccinated or get fired), how are we sharing this public health information so we can all feel safe in big crowds again? As noted above, it was the New York’s “Excelsior Pass” that served as digital proof for fully-vaccinated Foo Fighter fans. How do we non-New Yorkers get to use something like that? One answer: the Vaccine Credential Initiative (VCI) -- a voluntary coalition of public and private organizations -- created the “SMART Health Card” to allow access to digital vaccine records. California just announced that it will use SMART cards, just so long as no one calls it a vaccine passport, and Walmart encourages shoppers to log into their Walmart or Sam’s Club account and request the vaccine record using the SMART cards. An infectious disease physician quoted in this TechCrunch article points out that if we had a centralized data recording system we wouldn’t need these types of credentials or passports -- we would know when the infection rate was low enough so proof of vaccination is unnecessary. Instead, we are relying on the courage of individuals and organizations to ignore political and ethical concerns to allow us to safely work and play together again. Maybe they heard Foo Fighter’s hit song “Learn To Fly” with its post-pandemic appropriate lyric: “fly along with me, I can’t quite make it alone.”

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