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Senator Cassidy Blames Meaningful Use for High Cost of Care

Reforming federal regulation, such as the meaningful use program, may cut unnecessary healthcare spending, the Louisiana senator says.

Administrative burden associated with meaningful use contributed to high, unnecessary healthcare costs.

Source: Thinkstock

By Kate Monica

- Reducing administrative burden associated with federal regulation — particularly the meaningful use program — may help to significantly cut unnecessary healthcare costs, according to a new white paper released by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

In the paper, Cassidy points to a 2017 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report that shows administrative costs account for more than 8 percent of US healthcare spending.

“This is by far the highest in the developed world, with other developed countries averaging only three percent spent on administration,” wrote Cassidy. “Reducing burdensome regulations on providers and stakeholders would aid significantly in lowering unnecessary health care costs.”

Cassidy recommended HHS conduct a comprehensive study of current regulations and identify areas where regulatory bodies could reduce costs associated with administrative tasks by at least 10 percent.

“This should include reforming the meaningful use program that is turning highly educated and compensated health professionals into data entry clerks,” stated Cassidy.

In April, CMS rebranded the meaningful use program as Promoting Interoperability (PI). The federal agency announced the change as part of the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and Long-Term Care Hospital (LTCH) Prospective Payment System (PPS) proposed rule.

CMS intends to make the program more flexible and less burdensome for providers by focusing on measures that encourage health data exchange and access.

“Additionally, more must be done to consolidate existing quality measures and reorient the system toward outcomes measures that are designed by and tailored to specific types of providers,” wrote Cassidy.

CMS has already taken steps to achieve this particular aim — in October 2017, the federal agency announced its Meaningful Measures initiative. The initiative is intended to reduce quality measures to only those most critical to optimizing patient health outcomes.

Earlier this month, CMS announced it is accepting proposals for new measures that stakeholders would like to see included in the PI program.

In addition to reducing administrative burden, Cassidy also pushed for price transparency, lower health insurance premiums, increased competition between health systems, and lower drug costs to cut healthcare spending.

“But just because the votes in the Senate aren’t there right now doesn’t mean we should stop coming up with ideas to address the problems in our health care system,” stated Cassidy in a press release.

“I hope the eight pages of ideas I’m publishing today will further our ongoing discussions and debates, and eventually translate into good legislation we can introduce and send to the president’s desk,” he continued. “Americans deserve a better health care system and lower health care costs, and I will work with anyone who is willing to help me achieve that goal.”

Finally, Cassidy recommended policymakers focus on disease prevention and primary care as ways to cut healthcare costs and improve health outcomes.

Cassidy emphasized the need to consider social determinants of health in care delivery. Social determinants of health — the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age — can contribute to poor health outcomes and costly chronic conditions.

“HHS should commission a comprehensive study on the social determinants of health and disparities that exist within the current system,” stated Cassidy. “The current disparities that exist between Americans of different races and socioeconomic status are frightening and a travesty.”

Incorporating social determinants of health data into patient EHRs can help to enable better-informed clinical decision-making for a variety of patient populations.

“It’s time for Congress to challenge those who are protecting a broken system that imposes higher costs on families without delivering better value,” concluded Cassidy. “The American people want action on policies that solve these problems and lower health care costs.”

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