Tom Price, the Republican representative from Georgia, has been tapped by President-elect Trump as the new Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Rep. Price is himself an orthopedic surgeon and comes from a family of doctors and, as a result, is focused closely on the ways in which government regulations burden the doctor-patient relationship. At an American Enterprise Institute event this past June, Rep. Price criticized the Affordable Care Act for allowing the government, rather than doctors and patients, to control the manner in which healthcare is offered.
Rep. Price has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at reducing what he views as the burdens placed on physicians by new Health IT regulations. For example, Rep. Price has introduced several pieces of legislation that would have revised reporting and compliance requirements under the Electronic Health Records Incentive Programs, which require physicians and hospitals to attest to “meaningful use” of electronic health records. Rep. Price introduced the “Meaningful Use Hardship Relief Act of 2015” (H.R. 3940), which would have authorized the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to grant “hardship exceptions” to physicians who were unable to meet Stage 2 of the meaningful use reporting deadlines in a timely manner. Rep. Price also actively pushed for a delay of Stage 3 of the meaningful use program, which is set to begin as an optional requirement for physicians and hospitals in 2017 and to become mandatory in 2018. Rep. Price has criticized Stage 3 of the meaningful use requirements as too onerous, stating that arbitrary reporting deadlines impose obstacles to widespread adoption of electronic medical records. Most recently, Rep. Price introduced the Flexibility in Electronic Health Record Reporting Act (H.R. 5001), which would shorten the meaningful use reporting period from one year to just 90 days.
It is not clear whether changes to the EHR meaningful use program will be at the top of Rep. Price’s agenda next year. The incoming administration seems primarily focused on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, and those efforts may consume HHS in the short term. Notwithstanding, as Secretary of HHS, Rep. Price will have greater flexibility to implement regulatory changes to Health IT regulations, and his previously-introduced legislation may provide the industry a blueprint of changes to come.