Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and Congressman Adrian Smith (R-NE) recently introduced important legislation to rein in the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). This legislation, H.R. 5741, the “Strengthening Innovation in Medicare and Medicaid Act,” is cosponsored by Reps. Tony Cardenas (D-CA), John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Kurt Schrader (D-Ore), and Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio).

These members should be applauded for introducing this legislation. Additionally, all members of Congress should support and co-sponsor this legislation.

CMMI was created under Obamacare with the goal of increasing efficiency of healthcare programs. The agency was tasked with conducting demonstrations over new health care delivery and payment models in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program with the intent of reducing healthcare costs.

However, in its relatively short history, CMMI has pushed demonstrations with little evidence they would result in savings, while strong-arming healthcare providers and patients into participating.

The agency is also not under the normal appropriations process – Obamacare gave CMMI $10 billion every decade in perpetuity. As a result, Congress is limited in its ability to conduct routine, necessary oversight.

H.R. 5741 would help bring much needed oversight to CMMI through the imposition of several guardrails. For instance, the legislation would:

  • Require a public notice and comment process for any new demonstration. There are currently no requirements for public input.
  • Create a privileged process for Congress to block the implementation of a demonstration within 45 days of a proposed expansion from Phase 1 to Phase 2. 
  • Set limitations on any demonstration including requiring a test to be no longer than five years and only as many participants as necessary to obtain a statistically valid sample.
  • Allow providers and suppliers to opt-out a demonstration if it would cause undue economic hardship. 
  • Require monitoring of the impact any demonstration is having on beneficiaries and health disparities.

These reforms are a good first step towards reining in CMMI by providing much needed transparency, congressional oversight and stakeholder engagement.