Sen. Alexander favors 21st Century Cures oversight over new legislation

lamar alexander help committee
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, said Democrats have "elevated (Obamacare) to 67th book of the Bible." (help.senate.gov)

The lawmaker behind the landmark 21st Century Cures Act isn’t interested in hashing out follow-up legislation. He’d prefer to see the 2016 law implemented.

“We’re more likely to make adjustments to it than we are to pass another big new bill like that in the next few years,” Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, told attendees at an annual conference hosted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT,

He added that the Senate plans to do a “a lot of oversight in the next few years” around the law’s implementation.

FREE WEBINAR | DECEMBER 13, 2018

Employer-Based Insurance: Top Priorities for 2019

Join Blue Health Intelligence (BHI) and Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH) to hear how key descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics capabilities can drive new cost and quality insights for health plans, employers and benefit consultants.

“There's an enormous amount of authority in this law for a competent administrators,” he said during a fireside chat with CMS Innovation Center Director Adam Boehler.

RELATED: EHR Reporting Program RFI offers a window into ONC’s 21st Century Cures implementation

Alexander added that the law was intended to leave room for private sector innovation, noting he recently met with Apple to discuss its effort to put medical records on the iPhone. And he touted the Nashville-based Center for Interoperability where health systems with $200 billion in buying power are working to achieve “plug-and-play" interoperability.

During a keynote speech prior to Alexander’s fireside chat, HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan said the administration was eager to give the private sector leeway to fix interoperability in order to push the industry forward.

“This is not an administration that is really averse to disruption or really adverse to change,” he said. “We're not that administration.”

RELATED: Policy experts blame provider consolidation, lack of price transparency for skyrocketing medical costs

But Alexander also admitted that interoperability remains the “elephant in the room” that no one has quite figured out yet. He said he’d like to see doctors spend 10% to 20% of their time on EHRs rather than 40% to 50%.

“I hope we see interoperability gradually occur,” he said. “I hope more than anything we see consumers who say, ‘Thank you for my electronic medical record.’”

He highlighted Cures as one successful example of large bipartisan legislation, adding that unnecessary healthcare costs—which experts say represent 50% of total expenditures—are an area in which Republicans and Democrats can work together.

But he’s not optimistic about making changes to Obamacare with Democrats now in firm control of the House.

"The Democrats have elevated (Obamacare) to 67th book of the Bible,” he said. “They won't even change things they disagree with."