On Wednesday, January 18th, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a nearly four-hour long hearing during which Members questioned President Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Rep. Tom Prince (R-GA), on a range of healthcare issues.
While the hearing focused primarily on the Affordable Care Act, Rep. Price was asked a series of questions by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), also a physician, regarding the Meaningful Use Program and provider burden related to EHR documentation requirements. Rep. Price stated his support for health IT and his belief that the appropriate role for government in this space is to focus on interoperability. He also indicated that metrics related to use of health IT should be streamlined to correlate directly to improved healthcare quality and patient outcomes rather than documentation.
In addition, Rep. Price made several comments of note on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) and telehealth. The nominee underscored that he is “a strong advocate and supporter of innovation” while stating his concerns with the mandatory nature of patient participation in CMMI demonstration projects. On telehealth, Rep. Price described these technologies as “an exciting innovation” that are expanding access to care for patients across the country.
During his closing remarks, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) highlighted the Committee’s strong focus on health IT during development their 21st Century Cures legislative package in 2016 and indicated that the Committee would be interested in working with Rep. Price, if confirmed, on Meaningful Use program reforms. Rep. Price will appear before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, which is the critical path to being confirmed by the full Senate as the next HHS Secretary.