The United States Capitol building

Over the past several weeks, Congressional Republicans have indicated they are gearing up to tackle various health policy issues – and have offered health stakeholders the opportunity to provide feedback and their expertise in policy development.

On August 25, Republicans on the House of Representatives’ Committee on the Budget established a “Health Care Task Force.” Chaired by Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX), the Task Force is charged with “find[ing] solutions to reduce health care spending, examin[ing] opportunities to modernize and personalize the health care system, and support[ing] policies to fuel innovation and increase patient access to quality and affordable care.” The Task Force released an open letter, requesting: (1) feedback on regulatory, statutory, or implementation barriers that could be addressed to reduce health care spending; (2) information on efforts to promote and incorporate innovation into programs like Medicare to reduce health care spending and improve patient outcomes; (3) comments on the Congressional Budget Office’s modeling capabilities on health care policies, including limitations or improvements to such analyses and processes; (4) examples of evidence-based, cost-effective preventive health measures or interventions that can reduce long term health costs; and (5) recommendations to reduce improper payments in federal health care programs. Responses are due October 15, 2023.

On the other side of the Capitol, on September 6, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Ranking Member Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) released a white paper titled “Exploring Congress’ Framework for the Future of AI: The Oversight and Legislative Role of Congress Over the Integration of Artificial Intelligence in Health, Education, and Labor.” While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is scheduling artificial intelligence (AI) briefings for senators – with the intention of educating lawmakers and moving legislation later this year – Sen. Cassidy puts forth specific questions for health stakeholders on supporting medical innovation, as well as medical ethics and protecting patients. Feedback on the white paper is due September 22, 2023.

Sen. Cassidy also has been mulling changes in the realm of patient privacy. On September 7, he released an open letter to stakeholders, explaining: “Since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed nearly 30 years ago, patients could rely on their health information being protected, while enabling their providers to exchange their information for treatment, payment, and health care operations. However, new technologies such as wearable devices, smart devices, and health and wellness apps have expanded the creation and collection of health data. While these technologies have enabled better care and greater patient access to health information, much of this data is not protected by the HIPAA framework.” He asks detailed questions of interested parties, focusing on a wide variety of topics: general privacy issues, health information under HIPAA, health data collection, biometric data, genetic information, location data, financial information, health data sharing, AI, state and international privacy frameworks, and enforcement. Comments are due to Sen. Cassidy by September 28, 2023.

Lastly, House Committee on Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith (R-MO) released a request for information on “Improving Access to Health Care in Rural and Underserved Communities” on September 7. Chair Smith describes the challenges patients face due to “increasing health care facility closures, travel distances, and wait times, driven by a shrinking health care workforce, health care consolidation, and patchwork financing models,” which he noted were “uniquely difficult for patients and families living in rural and underserved areas in America.” He asks individuals and groups to comment on sets of questions surrounding geographic payment differences, sustainable provider and facility financing, aligning sites of service, the health care workforce, and innovative models and technology. Comments must be less than 10 pages and are due October 5, 2023.

It is clear Republicans are mulling their next moves for their health policy agenda, and stakeholders interested in these topics should consider sharing their expertise to help drive sustainable policy outcomes. The Squire Patton Boggs Health Policy team is following these developments closely and would welcome discussions with interested parties on these opportunities.