“Drain the swamp” is what the voters want, but a lame-duck session of Congress is scheming to sneak through one of the most lobbied bills in history. The misnamed CURES Act has had three lobbyists for each and every member of Congress, which is more than any of the other 11,000 bills in Congress except for a few major appropriations bills.
The Association of American Physicians & Surgeons (AAPS) urges rejection of the CURES Act in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, November 30, because this new law would intrude on patient privacy and allow unaccountable organizations to weaken privacy through guidelines hatched without transparency. “Information blocking,” which is targeted for elimination by this legislation, actually means protecting patient privacy.
The CURES Act empowers a new layer of bureaucracy, the Health Information Technology (“HIT”) Advisory Committee, to promote the “use of a certified health information technology for each individual in the United States.” Even worse, physicians who protect the privacy of their patients against this intrusion will be “subject to appropriate disincentives”–i.e. punished for respecting patient confidentiality.
“It is outrageous that Congress plans to attack the sacred duty of physicians to protect the privacy of their patients,” declares Jane Orient, M.D., Executive Director of AAPS. “This epitomizes an out-of-control Washington elite inflicting harm on the American public.”
In the past half-decade, the only health bill to be more heavily lobbied was the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), and MACRA is also disastrous for physicians and patients. The heavier the lobbying, the more handouts and regulations are buried deep within a bill.
“Instead of trying to enact more suffocating, privacy-invading regulations, Congress should be examining what it can repeal during the upcoming Trump Administration,” observes Andrew Schlafly, General Counsel to AAPS. “Rather than pushing to pass the CURES Act, Congress should be repealing MACRA,” he added.
The CURES Act would require the federal government to “give deference to standards published by standards-development organizations and voluntary consensus-based standards bodies” in formulating privacy-damaging policy, but no such deference is justified, and such practice is already harming other aspects of care. The designation for such groups is “merely a euphemism for private, self-enriching groups that care more about padding their own income than actually helping patients,” Mr. Schlafly adds.
AAPS observes that lame-duck sessions of Congress are very dangerous to the public as exiting congressmen seek to curry favor with lobbying firms for whom they hope to obtain lucrative jobs.