Lobbyists gathered in Washington, D.C., for National Health IT Week are blanketing Capitol Hill and pushing a three-point agenda.
The event's sponsor and architect of the lobbying plan is the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), which bills itself as a comprehensive health care-stakeholder membership organization exclusively focused on providing global leadership for the optimal use of information technology and management systems for the betterment of health care. [Full disclosure: I have contributed articles to the group's publication, Government Health IT].
On Thursday, the group's members-- vendors, provider organizations, payers, pharmaceutical/biotech companies, government agencies, industry/professional associations, research foundations and consumer protection groups--will try to persuade lawmakers that:
- Any future policy pertaining to the electronic health record incentive programs under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriately balance meaningful use criteria/measures with industry readiness without delaying the timeline for implementation.
- Congress enable the study of an informed patient identity solution.
- Congress work with the Obama Administration to make permanent the current physician self-referral regulation exemptions (Stark exemptions) and anti-kickback safe harbors for EHRs.
Neither the proposal to extend Stark and kickback exemptions nor the push to water down meaningful use regulations comes as a surprise. The health industry has assailed the meaningful use standards for months, saying they are too strict and unattainable on the timeline set by the government.
Then there is the proposal for a national identifier. For years, Congress has refused even to debate its merits.
As Dana Blankenhorn observes in this posting on ZDNet Blogs: "The opposition among many conservatives to such an identifier is fierce."