HIMSS Urges U.S. Congress to Support Digital Health Reform in Year-End Legislation

As the 117th United States Congress winds down, Congress still has one critical task it must address during the lame-duck session — avoid a potential government shutdown. 

Federal funding is set to expire Dec. 16, and Congress must pass a funding package before the deadline to allow government operations to continue. Any year-end funding legislation is also a key vehicle to attach other policies and priorities 

While Congress works to finalize Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations, HIMSS has requested Congressional leaders include several initiatives that would strengthen healthcare and public health. 

In a letter addressed to Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), HIMSS identified several areas of digital health reform in need of support to advance health equity. HIMSS’s vision is to realize the full health potential of every human, everywhere. 

Read HIMSS’s full letter to Congress.

Telehealth

HIMSS has long advocated that temporary regulatory changes be made permanent that enabled telehealth flexibilities through the COVID-19 public health emergency. HIMSS will continue working with Congress to see telehealth access for all Americans. 

HIMSS asks Congress to consider including provisions from the bipartisan Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID–19 Act (H.R. 4040), which passed the House 416-12 and would extend many critical telehealth flexibilities through the end of 2024. 

Maternal Health 

HIMSS advocates policymakers take decisive action to further address the maternal health crisis. HIMSS has long supported the passage of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021 (H.R. 959/S. 346), a comprehensive bill (also introduced as 12 standalone bills) seeking to address the many aspects of the maternal mortality crisis, including critical investments to address social determinants of health, funding for community-based organizations, growing and diversifying the perinatal workforce, and improving data collection and quality measures. The Momnibus Act includes the bipartisan Tech to Save Moms Act (standalone bill introduced as H.R. 937/S. 893), which makes investments to promote the integration and development of telehealth, and other digital tools to reduce maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity. 

HIMSS strongly encourages Congress to take immediate action to create a better future for mothers and their children by advancing the Momnibus package in any end-of-year legislation. 

Department of Veterans Affairs Cybersecurity 

HIMSS urges Congress to include commonsense bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would strengthen cybersecurity at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and protect information technology systems and devices used at the VA. The Strengthening VA Cybersecurity (SVAC) Act of 2022 (H.R. 7299/S. 3863) requires the VA to obtain an independent cybersecurity assessment of its most critical information systems, its cybersecurity posture as a whole, and develop a timeline and budget to fix any weaknesses and deficiencies identified by the report. 

This legislation recently passed the House under suspension of the rules and should be included in the end-of-year legislation. 

Data Modernization Initiative 

HIMSS recently released a report calling for $36.7 billion in investments to digitize, modernize and interoperate public health data infrastructure at state, territorial, local and tribal (STLT) health agencies over the next 10 years.  

As year-end negotiations evolve, HIMSS respectfully requests that Congress meet or exceed the House Appropriations Committee level of $250 million for Data Modernization Initiative in any final FY 2023 funding legislation. This funding is essential to the ongoing success of CDC’s Data Modernization Initiative and the nation’s health security. 

Patient Identification 

HIMSS strongly urges Congress to remove the outdated Section 510 from the final Labor-HHS appropriations bill or any end-of-year funding package.  

HIMSS continues to urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to explore and evaluate a full range of patient identification and matching approaches, tools and solutions, and work with the private sector to develop and implement an actionable national strategy for patient identification and matching that is cost-effective, scalable, secure and protects patient privacy. 

ONC Funding

To ensure that the healthcare system continues to advance information sharing and interoperability capabilities, HIMSS urges Congress to fully fund the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) at the president’s proposed FY23 budget request of $103.6 million. 

Without this much-needed funding boost, HIMSS fears ONC will be hard-pressed to successfully execute the many agency initiatives. They include certification, technical assistance on information sharing, technology solutions to incorporate the Biden administration’s requirements for health equity by design for federal programs, and working with CDC to advance public health data modernization required to support the reform of the healthcare system. 

HIMSS and its members thank Congress for its leadership and the strides made over the past year to strengthen healthcare and public health. HIMSS looks forward to continuing to be a resource in 2023. 

Data Modernization Initiative, Department of Veterans Affairs Cybersecurity, Digital Health Reform, HIMSS, letter to Congress, Maternal Health, ONC Funding, patient identification, Telehealth

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