Two bills scrutinize healthcare spending transparency, interoperability

Congress is adding its voice to the debate about interoperability as well as criticizing the administration's lack of healthcare spending disclosure with two new bills.

The first bill, launched by Rep. Mike Burgess (R-Texas), seeks to define interoperability as the ability to access patient data in one location "without the need for multiple interfaces." It also bans the blocking of interfaces with other EHRs, according to Politico.

In July 2016, HHS would be required to describe what barriers still exist to interoperability. The ONC's current interoperability plan aims to have nationwide interoperability by 2017 and will release an updated draft of its plan next month. Rep. Burgess' will take comments on the bill until March 13, according to Politico.

In the meantime, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced another bill, called the "Quality Data, Quality Healthcare Act" to push for healthcare spending transparency. The two claim that spending transparency is a crucial first step to improving quality while lowering costs. The bill acknowledges recent efforts to broaden access to Medicare data, but criticizes the data for being too limited and "insufficient to provide analyses of the quality of care related to these expenditures."

The bill proposes updates to the Qualified Entity program, which allows organizations to access and analyze Medicare data. The updates include allowing QE organizations to receive Medicare data to analyze and redistribute data to authorized subscribers — including payers, health systems and physicians — so they can make more informed decisions, and to permit QE organizations to charge a voluntary fee to subscribers so QEs can analyze the data to improve quality and reduce costs.

"Before we can truly move our health system forward, it is critical that Medicare cost and utilization data is shared with the individuals who can best use it — doctors, health systems, private insurers and research institutions," the bill read.

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