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March 11, 2015

LHC in DC: The need to clean up laws and free up data

LHC in DC: The need to clean up laws and free up data
by Nashville Post | Mar 11, 2015

Editor’s note: This is the second post from the Nashville Health Care Council’s 2015 Leadership Health Care Delegation to Washington. Look for more content from the trip in coming days and click here for entries from past visits.

During the second day of Leadership Health Care’s annual trip to Washington, D.C., 100 of Nashville’s emerging health care leaders heard from members of the Tennessee delegation to Congress, as well as key members of the Obama Administration, about the health care topics that are shaping policy discussions in the nation’s capital.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) kicked off the day’s sessions. Alexander discussed his work as chairman of the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, including trying to find ways to shorten the time and cost associated with bringing a new medical treatment, pharmaceutical or device from the discovery and development phase to the physician’s office or medicine cabinet.

Corker discussed work with U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Burwell on a long-term fix to Disproportionate Hospital Share payments for Tennessee, which is the only state that doesn’t have a permanent DSH solution.

And Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) (pictured) delivered a talk on fraud and waste in the health care system, providing an overview of the laws – such as the False Claims Act whistleblower protection and the Stark law’s anti-kickback statute – that are intended to eliminate costly fraud but can actually create more problems than they solve.

“If we cleaned up the laws, there would be less fraud, but also the government would be saving a whole lot more money,” Cooper said. “And that’s my goal, to save money.”

LHC members also heard from Meena Seshamani, M.D., director of HHS’ Office of Health Reform and Karen B. DeSalvo, M.D., National Coordinator for HIT and Acting Assistant Secretary of HHS, about topics surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and health information technology initiatives.

Seshamani (pictured at left) provided an overview of consumerism in the health insurance marketplaces, discussing the successes of the most recent health insurance open enrollment period and the ongoing work to reach new enrollees to encourage use of those plans. She talked about her office’s desire to work with states that are interested in expanding Medicaid, noting that $4.2 billion of the $5.7 billion of uncompensated care costs that were eliminated because of the expansion of insurance coverage came in states that expanded Medicaid. And she outlined steps being taken to reform the health care delivery system, including incentives to reward value over volume, initiatives encouraging providers to deliver better coordinated care and improving the distribution of information so providers can make better care decisions.

On the health IT front, DeSalvo discussed the activities of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in advancing the interoperability and usability of health data so providers can more easily share patient health data and use the information to provide better care, reduce costs, improve population health and advance scientific initiatives like precision medicine.

The key ingredients to achieving interoperability are to “standardize the standards,” create incentives to use the standards, and to create a “trust environment” where providers and consumers understand expectations around security and privacy.

“I feel really strongly that we need to unlock this data,” DeSalvo (pictured at right) said, noting that consumers know the data is useful and are frustrated that they have to keep filling out forms on a clipboard at their doctors’ offices and can’t get their children’s immunization records when they’re trying to sign up for school.

“We know the data is there,” she said. “We just have to find a way to get the data to move.”

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