House Committee Unveils Draft Bill to Spur Medical Innovation
May 1, 2015 09:04 AM
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday released a discussion draft of the 21st Century Cures legislation, which contains proposals to accelerate medical innovation through the research and development of cures and treatments. The legislation also contains placeholder sections for not yet included proposals to support innovations with regards to delivery, including interoperability and telehealth.
On Thursday, following the release of the draft, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to discuss the discussion draft proposals. The hearing largely focused on medical innovation with regards to the advancement of cures and treatments, as lawmakers are still developing the language on delivery innovation.
During the hearing, members coalesced around the importance of providing more funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The bill provides $10 billion over five years for an NIH Innovation Fund, as well as $1.5 billion in additional funding under the normal appropriation for NIH. This additional funding is intended to boost the nation’s research efforts. It also directs NIH to establish a research network devoted to pediatric diseases and birth defects.
In addition to research provisions, the legislation includes proposals to improve the development and coordination of private and public efforts towards new treatments and cures, including antibiotic drugs and vaccines. With the inclusion of new drug development requirement, some lawmakers argued the legislation should provide additional resources to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to carry out the requirements. “One specific issue that deserves singling out is the fact that we are asking the FDA to make many changes to their current operation. We should make sure the agency has the resources to carry out these duties,” said Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO-1).
Several lawmakers noted the panel has significant work head in order to prepare proposals addressing delivery innovations. “Work continues on several complicated, yet critical issues, including the regulation of diagnostic tests and telemedicine,” said Subcommittee Chairman Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA-16) in his opening statement. “On telemedicine, I continue to work with my colleagues in the Energy and Commerce Working Group on Telemedicine toward a bipartisan proposal that will encourage the use of telemedicine services to improve health care quality and outcomes, increase patient access, and control costs. I want to thank the administration and CBO for their input and look forward to our continued collaboration moving forward.”
The full Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-6) similarly stated there are “important issues to resolve.”
NAHC will carefully monitor the forthcoming 21st Century Cures legislative proposals on telehealth and interoperability and make recommendations to Congress that mirror our legislative priorities. In its 2015 Legislative Blueprint for Action [link], NAHC provides several recommendations for Congress to ensure the appropriate use of technology in home care. The recommendations include: 1) establish telehomecare services as distinct benefits within the scope of Medicare and federal Medicaid coverage guided by the concepts embodied in the FITT Act, including all present forms of telehealth services; 2) allow for sufficient flexibility to include emerging technologies; 3) clarify that telehomecare qualifies as a covered service under the Medicare home health services and hospice benefits and provide appropriate reimbursement for technology costs; 4) eliminate the list of authorized originating sites for telehealth services by physicians so that the home residence would be a covered telehealth site; 5) ensure that all health care providers, including HHAs and hospices, have access to appropriate bandwidth so that they can take full advantage of advances in technology appropriate for care of homebound patients; and 5) include telehealth equipment and service delivery as allowable costs in home health and hospice.
For more information about the hearing and the witnesses, please click here.