Following election, health IT policy picture is murky

Photo Credit: Getty/YinYang

While Tuesday’s election results, in which Republicans retained control of the House and Senate and gained control of the presidency thanks to Donald Trump’s surprising victory, likely mean attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act are forthcoming, implications for health IT stakeholders are less clear.

Politicians who are staying put

Many lawmakers for whom health technology issues have been a priority will continue to serve, as Politico’s Morning eHealth has outlined. For instance, House members Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) won re-election. Hurd has been outspoken both on issues pertaining to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ electronic health record efforts, as well as cybersecurity in the healthcare industry.

Paulsen, meanwhile, has pushed hard for repeal of the medical device tax included in the ACA.

In the Senate, Michael Bennet (D- Colo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) all won re-election. Bennet and Portman both backed legislation shortening the Meaningful Use reporting period in 2016 to 90 days, while the former also supported legislation to exempt low-risk medical device software and mobile applications from regulation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Bills and programs that are at risk

Jeff Smith, vice president of public policy at the American Medical Informatics Association, tells FierceHealthIT that the results likely bode well for some aspects of the lingering 21st Century Cures bill, but not others. The legislation sailed through the House in July 2015, but has failed to gain traction in the Senate thanks in no small part to funding arguments over new research efforts by the National Institutes of Health. It was dubbed a lame-duck session priority by lawmakers prior to the election.

“If some version of Cures doesn’t get passed in the lame duck, there is a really good chance that a lot of the FDA-oriented policies get picked up in must-pass Medical Device and Prescription Drug User Fee Reauthorizations, which expire next year,” Smith says. “As for the NIH-oriented policies, I’m afraid that those are in serious jeopardy now.

All of the enthusiasm behind the Cancer Moonshot and Precision Medicine will be severely tested, and the funds that many hoped would bolster the NIH budget will be harder to find in the 115th Congress.”

The impact on innovation

As far as what the election results mean for the use of technology and the push for value-based care, Smith says he doesn’t expect there to be much direct impact.

“It is entirely likely that leaders in the private sector will push forward with cost savings and innovative treatment,” Smith says.