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by Meg Marshall
Published on November 9, 2016

Meg Marshall, senior director of public policy for Cerner, develops and oversees Cerner's legislative agenda and represents the interests of Cerner and health care IT collaboratives in working with government officials and industry partners.

The results of yesterday's elections establish the direction of health care in our country for the next several years and beyond. Although health care may feel like it faded into the background during this tumultuous campaign season, now that the results are in, a lot is at stake as we move forward with the new normal.

In addition to changes to the executive branch after the new year, we will see turnover in many Congressional seats. Our new national leadership comprised of a Republican-led Administration and a Republican Congress will advance a wide range of legislation and regulation that will have significant ramifications for Cerner, our clients and the patients they serve.

At the center of the health policy debate remains the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other efforts to control rising health spending and preserve entitlements like Medicaid and Medicare. Additional health policy considerations include the effects of Americans' generally poor diets, drug abuse and addiction, mental health, violence and other non-medical factors that impact health; health disparities between affluent and low-income populations; and biomedical innovation.

The U.S. government spends $3.2 trillion each year on federal health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. The new government should continue to focus on achieving the triple aim: improving the patient experience, improving health and reducing costs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will likely continue to drive payment and incentive programs that affect providers. We will likely see focused regulations on health IT to address topics such as patient safety. MACRA, a bi-partisan effort, is consistently identified as a central driver to the nation's continued movement to value-based care, a critical component to achieving Cerner's long-term vision for population health. Efforts will continue to connect providers in the care continuum not originally part of the EHR Meaningful Use Incentive Programs, including long-term and post-acute care (skilled nursing and rehabilitation) facilities, home health and behavioral health.

Interoperability, privacy and security will remain central concerns as the country attempts to accelerate and protect the flow of health information, and we hope to see continued momentum in leveraging patient data to advance medical research and treatment, such as the Precision Medicine Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot.

Other important issues include the ACA's Cadillac tax on high-cost health policies and medical device tax will be decided. Heightened regulatory scrutiny is a byproduct of the increase in mergers and acquisitions activity due to models based on greater provider risk and overall cost of business. Top legislative vehicles to watch that must move in 2017 include the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization and the FDA user fees reauthorizations. Drug pricing — another bipartisan issue - will likely be addressed in the coming months as well.

While the new administration navigates these extremely important topics, our industry needs to be cognizant that securing alignment and bipartisanship is vital to progress. As government works to overcome obstacles, we can expect to see individual states continue to take a more active role in health care reform as one of America's largest employers and purchasers of health care. States will tackle policies such as Medicaid blockgrants, managing patient privacy rights and ensuring health data interoperability. As federal and state governments work together, we can be certain private stakeholders will continue driving collaborative efforts toward similar goals.

In the years ahead, Cerner and our clients can expect significant legislative and regulatory activity, at the federal and state levels, that have ramifications for our solutions, services and the overall delivery of health care. Cerner is committed to the progress of health care in this country, and we will continue to engage in government activities and provide updates regarding this important work.

To read more of Meg's thoughts on why health IT should be a presidential election issue, visit her previous blog here.

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