GIC HIMSS Advocacy Updates: Fall 2017

By Sue Sarhage (Advocacy Chair)

There is a proposed bill that would make telehealth services a core benefit in Medicare Advantage plans. It drew support from lawmakers and passed unanimously through the House Committee on Ways and Means.

H.R. 3727 . Lawmakers on both sides stated the legislation would require Medicare Advantage to include telehealth services as a base benefit beginning in 2018.

Provider groups and health IT advocacy organizations are happy with the proposal to expand Medicare coverage for telehealth services under the 2018 physician fee schedule, however pushing for flexibility to integrate connected health technology.

Last month the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a proposal to add seven new codes to the list of telehealth services covered by Medicare’s physician fee schedule in 2018. The new codes expanded reimbursement for counseling patients about the need for a lung cancer screening, chronic care management, psychotherapy for crisis and health risk assessments.

The AMA has been involved as well for coding referencing recommendations by its Digital Medicine Payment Advisory Group (DMPAG), assembled in January. They support the agency’s proposal to add seven new telehealth codes and unbundle remote monitoring payments, but wants CMS to utilize its waiver authority to provide better care at a lower cost and raised concerns that the proposed codes for remote monitoring were too general.

· HIMSS also is working on CMS to “consider applying waivers ” on telehealth restrictions, including originating site limitations and geographic areas where telehealth services are allowed. Referencing the work done by AMA’s DMPAG, the group also urged CMS to use discretion to expand coverage for remote patient monitoring by creating a new code that specifically covers remotely acquired patient-generated data.

HIMSS Advocacy

HIMSS Advocacy and Public Policy Center 
HIMSS mobilizes its members and other collaborators to successfully accomplish multiple levels of advocacy activities that are fueled by its members’ passion and experience. These activities include educating HIMSS members and Members of Congress and their staff on key issues to actually proposing and writing draft legislation. In addition, HIMSS works closely with key federal and state level decision-makers to advance improvements in the quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare.

HIMSS Federal Affairs Center 
HIMSS Federal Affairs team leverages member and staff subject matter expertise to provide insight to key federal agency representatives, while promoting agency personnel involvement in HIMSS activities at the local, regional and national levels. 

HIMSS Congressional Affairs 
The mission of the HIMSS Congressional Affairs team is to support the organization and its chapters by building relationships with members of Congress and their staff, providing them with accurate information about health information technology and management systems in order to help them make effective public policy decisions.

HIMSS State Government Affairs 
The mission of HIMSS Office of State Government Affairs is to support the organization and its Chapters by building effective partnerships and relationships with state and local officials. This is achieved through the representation and advocacy of HIMSS Public Policy Principles, needs and interests. The office of State Government Affairs is headed by: 

Thomas S. Keefe, MA, FHIMSS
Senior Director, State Government Affairs

HIMSS Chapter Advocacy Program

With over 50 chapters in the United States, one of HIMSS’ many strengths is connecting HIMSS members with state, regional and national decision-makers on key health IT issues. HIMSS’ Chapter Advocacy program provides an opportunity for each HIMSS chapter to elect or appoint one or more members to serve in the Chapter Board level position as Chapter Advocate. Chapter Advocates and other volunteers interested in state level advocacy participate collectively in the Chapter Advocacy Roundtable (CAR). 

The CAR provides a networking and educational opportunity for Chapter Advocates to promote chapter level advocacy programs at the grassroots level in coordination with the HIMSS advocacy and public policy Board-approved agenda. Throughout the United States today, over 60 HIMSS Chapter Advocates are actively engaging state legislators through planning and facilitating advocacy outreach campaigns alongside their local chapters. 

What does it mean to be a Chapter Advocate? 
To advocate on behalf of your organization and community about issues important to furthering health IT policy and ensure state government officials are aware of your qualification as a health IT subject matter expert.

At the state and local levels, chapters will need to clearly define the role of the Chapter Advocacy Roundtable Member. The conduct of this role will vary among the states based on local membership and volunteer capabilities. The HIMSS State Government Affairs team will work with each Chapter to develop this position and will support the Chapter Advocacy Roundtable in a number of ways. The responsibilities of this role should minimally include:

  • Act as your Chapter’s connection to state level advocacy and keep members of your Board informed about campaign efforts 
  • Create an advocacy action plan specific to your community 
  • Recruit Chapter volunteers and other community leaders to join the campaign 
  • Plan a State Health IT/Advocacy Day to lead the chapter in developing and maintaining relationships with state elected officials
  • Attend or designate a chapter representative to sit in on monthly calls, quarterly regional calls and advocacy workshops to discuss current advocacy initiatives and provide feedback from local efforts
  • Attend or send a chapter representative to the annual HIMSS CAR Offsite Training held during HIMSS Policy Summit in Washington D.C.