21st Century Cures Act Passes House Subpanel

May 27, 2015
Staff Writer

The House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved the 21st Century Cures Act in a 51-0 vote that took place last week.

The House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved the 21st Century Cures Act in a 51-0 vote that took place last week. The legislation is meant to encourage greater innovation through the modernization of the healthcare infrastructure, which would involve improvements to the FDA approval process.

After clearing the subpanel, the bill, also known as HR 6, will still need to be approved by the rest of Congress before reaching President Obama. The Energy and Commerce Committee is optimistic that the bill will reach President Obama by the end of 2015.

"In the last century, American medicine leapt from medicine shows to the mapping of the human genome,” co-author Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee ranking member Diana DeGette (D-CO), said in a statement. ”With the 21st Century Cures Act, we seek to support the biomedical community in making a similar leap forward in this next century. With billions in support for our premier research and development institutions and comprehensive reform of our systems, 21st Century Cures will make a real difference in the lives of patients and their families."

The subpanel approved HR 6 after a $13 billion deal was reached to pay for the legislation. As part of HR 6, the NIH would receive $10 billion over 5 years for research and the FDA would receive $550 million. Additionally funds will go to research and infrastructure improvements.

“Our committee has had the unique opportunity to help usher our healthcare system into the 21st century, and I am glad that we have come together to begin to do so in a bipartisan way with this bill,” said co-author full committee ranking member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). “The 21st Century Cures Act will ensure that innovative treatments are getting to those who need them most, giving real hope to patients and their families.

Offsets to pay for the bill included selling oil and modifications in payment schedules. Additionally, money would be raised through Medicaid changes and penalties for X-ray film, which could potentially incentivize a switch to digital imaging. The methods of funding the bill remain an area of contention and potential hold up for rapid endorsement.

"Critical funding for our nation’s top research institutions will help to bolster biomedical research, advance cutting edge science, and further improve the process by which life-saving cures are discovered and approved," said Pallone. "Today’s vote is an important step toward improving the health and lives of millions of Americans.”

Full committee chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), DeGette, Pallone, Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R-PA), and Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX), authored the bill.

"This historic day marks a big bipartisan step forward on our path to cures,” said Upton. “We have all said too many early good-byes to people we love and treasure. Every single person has a common goal: we want more time with those we love. In this, the greatest country in the world, Americans deserve a system second to none. We can and must do better. The time for 21st Century Cures is now.”

The initiative was launched over a year ago and has gone through dozens of hearings and roundtables. The bill includes input from patients, healthcare organizations, patient advocates and more through a social media campaign focused on the hashtag #CuresIn4Words. Feedback using #CuresIn4Words is ongoing.