Stimulus News

The Senate passed its own stimulus bill today. The next step will be a conference between the House and the Senate to reconcile their bills. The House bill includes major costly changes to the HIPAA Privacy and Security rules and the COBRA continuation coverage period as previously noted in the FEHBlog. The Senate bill defers the privacy and security issues to the HHS Secretary and an advisory committee. Todays Washington Post featured a report on the intensive lobbying over those provisions. Business Insurance reports today that the “broad COBRA eligibility expansion [found in the House bill (§ 3002(b)), lobbyists say, is not expected to win final congressional approval.” I’m keeping my fingers crossed for sanity to prevail.

Under both bills, the Bush administration’s efforts to transition health information technology oversight to the public private AHIC successor is finito. Those responsibilities will be retained within HHS. I am not sure that’s a good thing. Here we are over 12 years following enactment of HIPAA and HHS still has not finalized all of the contemplated electronic claims related standards. The federal regulatory process simply is not conducive to fast moving technology changes, in my opinion.