Governance & Risk Management , Healthcare Information Exchange (HIE) , HIPAA/HITECH

Trump Nominates Rep. Tom Price to Head HHS

GOP Doctor's Stances on Privacy, Security Unclear
Trump Nominates Rep. Tom Price to Head HHS
Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., was named by President-elect Trump to lead Department of Health and Human Services

Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a physician who has been chosen by President-elect Donald Trump to head the Department of Health and Human Services, has been an advocate of adding flexibility to the HITECH electronic health records financial incentive program, as well as a champion for repealing the Affordable Care Act.

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While some experts say not a lot has publicly surfaced so far about Price's position on specific healthcare sector privacy or cybersecurity-related issues, the six-term GOP congressman appears to have an understanding of health IT-related challenges.

For instance, Price has been supportive of easing timeline requirements related to "Meaningful Use" reporting by hospitals and physicians participating in the HITECH Act EHR financial incentive program.

"Rep. Tom Price has been at the forefront of advancing important reforms to the nation's health IT policy landscape," said Russell Branzell, president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, a non-profit association of healthcare CIOs and CISOs, in a statement.

Price "was a leader in pushing for greater flexibility in the Meaningful Use program, including the 90-day reporting period. The shorter reporting period is a more realistic timeframe and will help hospitals stay focused on optimizing electronic health record systems for improved patient care," Branzell said. Price was also "instrumental in 2015 in extending the timeline for providers to apply for hardship exemptions under the Meaningful Use program," he noted.

Among the many Meaningful Use reporting requirements, healthcare entities must attest to conducting a security risk assessment pertaining to EHR data and systems.

Tom Leary, vice president of government relations at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, or HIMSS, agrees that Price has been known for being part of "a big push for reducing the burden on healthcare providers" in terms of HITECH Act reporting requirements. "My sense is that he understands health IT very well," he says.

But when it comes to larger cybersecurity issues facing the healthcare sector, not a lot appears publicly known about Price, Leary notes.

Price's role as chairman of the House budget committee "is outside the jurisdiction of cybersecurity issues," Leary notes. "Still, the U.S. budget incorporates [cybersecurity] requirements" of federal agencies, he says.

Repealing Obamacare

Price, an orthopedic surgeon, has also led House efforts to repeal ACA, more commonly known as Obamacare. He has sponsored for six consecutive congressional versions of a bill, the "Empowering Patients First Act," which propose to "fully repeal" ACA, and replace it with a program focused on tax incentives and health savings accounts for individuals obtaining healthcare coverage, and allowing consumers to purchase healthcare insurance across state lines.

Among the few mentions of privacy-related issues contained in the legislation, the bill proposes that "a health insurance issuer may not disclose protected health information if the health insurance issuer is prohibited from disclosing that information under another state or federal law that imposes more stringent privacy restrictions than those imposed under federal law."

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

In addition to choosing Price to lead HHS as department secretary, Trump has named Seema Verma as administrator of HHS' Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Verma is the CEO and founder of SVC Inc., an Indianapolis, Ind.-based health policy consulting firm.

Among other programs, CMS currently oversees the administration of ACA, including the website and systems facilitating health insurance exchanges for more than 30 states.

"Health information technology plays a pivotal role in virtually every aspect of healthcare and is moving us toward better, safer, more efficient care," Branzell says.

Before taking on their individual positions within the upcoming Trump administration, Price and Verma first must be confirmed by the Senate.

About the Author

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Executive Editor, HealthcareInfoSecurity, ISMG

McGee is executive editor of Information Security Media Group's media site. She has about 30 years of IT journalism experience, with a focus on healthcare information technology issues for more than 15 years. Before joining ISMG in 2012, she was a reporter at InformationWeek magazine and news site and played a lead role in the launch of InformationWeek's healthcare IT media site.

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