Health IT Now Slams Latest Missed Deadline on Information Blocking Rule

OMB allows 90-day review period to expire without publication of a proposed rule 

WASHINGTON, DC (December 17, 2018): Health IT Now - a broad-based coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers, and payers supporting the use of data and health information technology to improve healthcare - responded today to the administration's latest missed deadline for publication of a proposed information blocking rule as required under the 21st Century Cures law.

The proposed rule was sent by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on September 17, 2018, setting off a 90-day timeline for the agency to complete its review; a period which was now expired without publication of a proposed rule. 

ONC had previously stated that the rule would be released in April then revised its timeline to September, before finally submitting the rule to OMB on September 17th. Now, more than two years after 21st Century Cures was enacted, patients and providers are still without an information blocking rule - undermining the intent of the law. 

Just last week, Health IT Now had warned that further delays to the rule would be "wholly unacceptable." The coalition released the following statement responding to this latest missed deadline:

"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," said HITN Executive Director Joel 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. It is time to say 'enough.' 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. Lawmakers who worked doggedly to get this landmark, bipartisan bill across the finish line should be incensed by the way that bureaucratic delays have weakened their signature achievement. 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. In the meantime, we are hopeful that industry stakeholders will not delay interoperability initiatives as a result of the ambiguity created by these continued delays."

Health IT Now's Role as an Unyielding Watchdog on Information Blocking:

  • Responded to a December 12, 2018 Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on implementation of the 21st Century Cures law, warning that "The 90-day timeline for this review [of the information blocking rule] to be completed will be reached in mere days and, based on this week's hearing, it appears the administration could be at risk of missing this critical deadline. We are putting OMB on notice that further delays to this rule would be wholly unacceptable."

  • Published a September 8, 2018 op-ed in STAT, warning that "More than 600 days after the enactment of the Cures Act, not a single regulation has been issued on information blocking" and criticizing the administration's "vague timeline that shows little urgency for combating this pressing threat to consumer safety and stumbling block to interoperability."

  • On August 22, 2018, Health IT Now endorsed a bipartisan amendment to the Labor-HHS funding bill for FY2019 requiring the administration to provide a progress report to Congress on its work implementing information blocking provisions of the Cures law.

  • Provided an August 15, 2018 response to a request for information from the Health Care Innovation Caucus, in which the coalition urged lawmakers to work with the administration and "issue these critical [information blocking] regulations as soon as possible."

  • Assembled more than a dozen cosigners on an August 6, 2018 letter to HHS and OIG criticizing delays in releasing information blocking regulations.

  • Released a February 27th, 2018 report with the Bipartisan Policy Center entitled, "The Future Role of Government in Health IT and Digital Health." The report called on the administration to "use its existing authority ... to ensure that information flows freely, without information blocking," adding that "As part of this work, applicable federal agencies, including the OIG, CMS, and ONC should enforce 21st Century Cures information blocking provisions."

  • Led more than a dozen health IT organizations in an August 29, 2017 sign-on letter offering specific recommendations for eliminating the threat of information blocking, including calling for a proposed rule clarifying information blocking provisions in Cures. 

  • Hosted a July 25, 2017 information blocking summit with nearly two dozen stakeholder groups to discuss ways to most effectively engage in the effort against harmful information blocking practices.