Leadership Healthcare in D.C.: Regulations, opioids, consolidation and more

Category: federal government, opioids, Rep. Jim Cooper, Rep. Marsha Blackburn

Leadership Healthcare in D.C.: Regulations, opioids, consolidation and more


Nashville’s Leadership Healthcare once again had its annual D.C. delegation this week. On March 12-13, more than 70 representatives from Nashville’s healthcare community traveled to D.C. to hear from and meet with government representatives and learn what changes are coming to regulation and policy, while also showcasing Nashville’s world-class healthcare industry.

One of the annual high notes is hearing from Tennessee’s elected representatives. This year both U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tennessee) and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) spoke to the delegation. 

While taking divergent positions on policy, a few things were clear:  healthcare continues to dominate much of the discussion in D.C. as Congress and the Trump administration wrestle with questions about the cost, access to, and delivery of healthcare. Some areas of agreement were concerns about overregulation and continued prescription drug price increases. In addition, issues related to opioid addiction are front of mind for many elected representatives.

Opioids also featured prominently with a number of other speakers. There was broad agreement that more money is necessary to fight issues related to addictions and treatment. However, more than one speaker noted that while spending is easy to do, ensuring that money is effectively put to use is much harder.

One promising program screens and identifies patients who may be particularly susceptible to addiction, and works to address those problems before addiction can take hold. 

While policy questions dominated, many attendees had questions about ongoing industry consolidation and how policy changes may affect various sectors of the healthcare industry.

Representatives from Bank of America and Jeffries commented that while there are headwinds to the healthcare industry, the recent federal budget deal was much better than it could have been. In particular, they singled out home health, post-acute care, and ambulance providers as having received add-ons that will help stabilize reimbursement. For hospital providers, they pointed to DSH extenders as a definite win. Finally, there was general agreement that the current administration’s outlooks on MIPS and MACRA were probably more favorable to physician reimbursement.

Program integrity, fraud and abuse, and compliance concerns also came up at this year’s discussions.

Speakers noted that this administration has often emphasized reducing fraud, waste, and abuse as a way to contain healthcare costs. That emphasis has not changed, and while there may be increased flexibility with administrative penalties from Medicare contractors, enforcing fraud and abuse regulations is still a significant regulatory focus.

New this year was a discussion of potential penalties related to information blocking. As Brett Meeks from the Senate's HELP Committee explained, information sharing is critical for enhanced EHR requirements and implementing legislation like the 21st Century Cures Act. He made it clear that there is a focus on ensuring the free flow of information and penalizing entities who intentionally prevented such sharing.

All in all, it was a fantastic delegation — full of excellent speakers, interesting topics, and camaraderie among the Nashville delegation as they discussed the policy issues that will affect our industry this year.

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