November 12, 2020
Only What Matters On Health Information Policy
Maverick Health Policy is closely watching the transition from one political party to another, and is very interested in what health information policies will continue from one administration to the next.
Politico’s Future Pulse outlines four areas that we could see continuity between the Trump and Biden administrations on digital health issues: COVID response (e.g., interstate data sharing), interoperability, privacy, and telehealth.
Speaking of telehealth, it is expected that a Biden Administration would be just as enthusiastic as the current one about offering a convenient, high-quality form of health care services -- particularly because virtual care helps address disparities and access problems. But the HHS Office of Inspector General and MedPAC have recently expressed concern about fraud and overuse -- so it is unclear if the widespread use of telehealth during the pandemic will be scaled back in the federal health programs, at least until monitoring and auditing processes can be put in place.
And speaking of privacy, there are now 10 settlements of HIPAA violations under the Office of Civil Rights’ HIPAA Right of Access Initiative that was created in 2019. Modern Healthcare reports that the White House has approved a new HIPAA rule, but HHS hasn’t released it yet. We know President-elect Biden has strong feelings about making sure people get quick, secure access to their health care records, but if there is a divided Congress, will a new privacy law be possible? Or will states continue to move forward on their own?
One Thoughtful Paragraph
President-elect Biden named Ron Klain as his chief of staff, which is a particularly interesting choice for digital health gurus who are trying to help control the pandemic. Here’s why: Ron Klain is the guy who gave out cell phones during the Ebola outbreak, saying there was an “urgent need to keep track of anyone who could spread the disease far outweighed any political risks.” So Ron Klain is the one responsible, in 2014, for allowing health officials (the CDC) to monitor (using cell phone data) possibly-infected-with-Ebola travelers who came to the U.S. Of course, as we know, the COVID-19 pandemic is on a much grander scale than Ebola ever was -- but it seems possible that contact tracing apps have a friend in a very powerful position.