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  • Writer's pictureJulie Barnes

June 26, 2020

Maverick Health Policy

Only What Matters On Health Information Policy

Maverick Health Policy is struck by the amount of health care policy news that would, on a normal day, be relatively Earth-shattering and is now more like “right, so that happened.” This week is no different.

  1. CMS is proposing, in its annual Medicare rate update, to make permanent telehealth flexibilities for home health providers. This public sector shift into a modern health care delivery model came within a day of Mayo Clinic’s announcement to create a hospital inside patient’s homes with technology company Medically Home. And there must be something to this, because yesterday “Health IT Today” published an entire article on the possibility of “digital-only health systems.”

  2. CMS created the Office of Burden Reduction and Health Informatics to reduce unnecessary burdens on health systems, increase the use of health informatics, and promote innovation in interoperability; see the press release here.

  3. At least the United States is still good at something: A new report from Georgetown University says that our broadband networks have handled the surge in internet traffic from the COVID-19 lockdowns much better than those in Europe.

One Thoughtful Paragraph

Way back when things were “normal,” the Trump Administration made serious waves when it announced on November 15, 2019 that hospitals would be required to make their prices public, including privately negotiated rates with insurers, so that consumers can figure out how much they will pay for out-of-pocket (fact sheet). It took the hospitals about 3 minutes to announce that they would be prevailing upon the court system to prevent the price transparency rule from being implemented. This week, with all the other super-fun news to digest, it barely registered when a federal judge declined to do so and ruled that HHS could proceed with its plan to require hospitals to reveal prices. (This was the first time HHS Secretary Azar smiled in 2 years). The American Hospital Association quickly announced it would be appealing the ruling. This hot legal case came after President Trump acted out of frustration from a lack of congressional action on surprise billing. In June 2019, he issued an executive order to get the relevant agencies working on rules that would force providers and health plans to disclose information about expected out-of-pocket costs before a patient receives care. One outcome of the executive order was the hospital rule that will go into effect on January 1, 2021, pending the above-mentioned appeal, another is a proposed price transparency rule for health plans. Both of these rules are reliant on Affordable Care Act (ACA) authorities, so if the Supreme Court decides that the ACA is unconstitutional as the Trump Administration insists (pause here for head-shake at the irony), we will turn to the interoperability rules for price transparency. That rule, which is final and so far not subject to legal review, requires plans to share data on costs beginning in 2021. So, it seems that one way or the other, we will know who pays what for health care services. Not a small thing, even in the middle of a pandemic.

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