Group takes OMB to task for missing information blocking rule deadline

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Although a proposed information blocking rule has been under review by the Office of Management and Budget since September, the agency has missed the 90-day deadline for completing its review.

That’s the contention of Health IT Now, a coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers and payers, which says OMB’s foot-dragging is “undermining” the intent of the 21st Century Cures Act.

“It is stunning that, more than two years after 21st Century Cures became law, we are still waiting on regulators to actually do what the law says,” says Joel White, executive director of Health IT Now. “This holiday season, the best gift that OMB could give consumers would be an expedited completion of its review and the public release of a robust information blocking rule.”

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT developed the proposed rule and sent it to OMB on September 17, setting in motion a 90-day timeline for the agency to complete its review, according to HITN. However, the group claims that OMB allowed the three-month review period to expire without publication of the proposed rule.

OMB was not immediately available for comment, despite repeated attempts to contact the agency. For its part, ONC declined to comment on the assertions made by HITN’s White.

“Patients and providers have looked on with disappointment as the administration blows through one missed deadline after another for publicly releasing a proposed information blocking rule,” adds White. “By continuing to slow walk these regulations, the administration is adding to uncertainty in the marketplace and is quickly reaching a point whereby it will be in obvious defiance of the spirit of the Cures law.”

Also See: Health IT Now, professional groups push ONC on info blocking regs

Under the 21st Century Cures Act, the HHS Office of the Inspector General is given the authority to investigate claims of information blocking and assign financial penalties of as much as $1 million per violation for practices found to be interfering with the lawful sharing of electronic health records.

ONC’s long-awaited proposal seeks to define those exceptions to the definition of information blocking in the Cures Act. When finalized, the rule will be used by HHS OIG to take enforcement activities against those “bad actors” that impede the electronic flow of health data.

Nonetheless, National Coordinator for Health IT Don Rucker told last month’s ONC Annual Meeting that the problem of electronic information blocking in healthcare has been improving since the Cures Act was signed into law.

“We’ve already seen a lot of behavioral change just since the Cures Act was passed in December of 2016,” said Rucker, though he did not provide any metrics quantifying the improvement over the past two years. “I think we’re definitely making progress there.”

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