US House of Representatives Passes Health Innovations Bill
July 13, 2015 09:55 AM
The US House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6) by a vote of 344-77 on Friday, July 10. As the National Association for Home Care & Hospice previously reported the legislation contains language of interest to home care and hospice requiring the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to research ways to improve electronic health records, interoperability, and telehealth. It also instructs CMS to report to Congressional committees of jurisdiction on means of expanding telehealth and barriers to its expansion in Medicare, as well as a section on ensuring the interoperability of health information. As currently written, the bill does not make any changes to current telehealth services provided by CMS.
During a press conference earlier this week announcing the scheduled floor consideration of the bill, House Speaker John Boehner praised the legislation as a “breakthrough initiative.”
“We’ll also take up a breakthrough initiative to help more people get life-saving treatment that they need,” said Boehner (R-OH). “Today in America we have thousands of diseases to fight and the best minds in the world are on the frontlines of that fight. But our researchers need more tools and fewer roadblocks and that’s what the 21st Century Cures initiative will provide. I recently heard from a woman in Cincinnati whose sister suffered from pancreatic cancer, and she said of this initiative, ‘It’s my definition of hope.’”
House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) similarly praised the legislation. “For really the last year-and-a-half, our committee on both sides of the aisle has been listening to all the different experts—the NIH, the research community, the disease groups, the Administration, patients—trying to figure out what we can do to expedite the approval of drugs and devices,” said Upton.
Prior to the vote, Upton stated that a strong vote in support of the bill in the House would help the bill moving forward. “We’re looking for a strong vote, more than 300 votes this week to help us move the bill through the Senate and get it to the President’s desk. 10,000 different diseases, 7,000 of them rare, only 500 cures. We can do better, and that’s what this bill does.”
The bill previously passed out of the Energy & Commerce Committee by a vote of 51-0. However, subsequently it has faced challenges. In addition to the telehealth language, the bill also provides $8.75 billion in funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Most recently, Democrats criticized the decision to reduce the total funding provided to NIH from $10 billion to $8.75 billion, while some conservative groups have argued the level of spending is too high.
The Senate is reportedly in the process of working on its own version of the legislation.
“We are one step closer to the finish line,” Upton said, according to CQ. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue building momentum on this bill and to get it onto the president’s desk.”
NAHC Reportwill continue to provide updates regarding the status of this legislation.