21st Century Cures Act passes through committee with unanimous approval

Despite concerns raised by healthcare groups and leaders over the 21st Century Cures Act, the legislation today was unanimously approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The bill passed 51-0, and Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) called it "a big bipartisan step forward on our path to cures," according to an announcement.

"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," Upton said.

The bill has seen its share of criticism. The first iteration left out topics many in the industry deem important to healthcare innovation and growth--telemedicine and interoperability. The committee then released an updated version that touched on those topics, but some still said it didn't go far enough.

  • The American Hospital Association expressed concerns about the interoperability provisions in a recent letter to Upton. "We are concerned that the heavy-handed and duplicative enforcement mechanisms contemplated for providers could have significant unintended consequences," wrote Rick Pollack, AHA executive vice president.
  • The American Telemedicine Association was disappointed at how the bill addressed telemedicine. "It appears that the staff and members of the committee have once again been led by [the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] and the Congressional Budget Office into asking for a study instead of taking real action," ATA CEO Jonathan Linkous said in a statement.
  • The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives asked for patient identification, which is not in the final bill. CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell and Board Chair Charles Christian called patient ID "the most significant challenge" to safe health information exchange.
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka spoke out against a bill in the Cures Act that would result in the dissolution of the Health IT Standards Committee.

However, the authors of the bill see it as a positive step forward. "After one year of deliberation, research, and stakeholder input we're one step closer to delivering new cures and therapies, and hope to patients," Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) said in the statement. 

Premier, Inc. also issued a statment on the bill's passage. The alliance's senior vice president of public affairs, Blair Childs, said: "Today's vote is an essential step to optimize HIT investments, improve the quality of care across settings and avoid the cost burdens associated with the work around solutions that are needed today for systems to 'talk' to one another. We strongly urge the full House of Representatives to support these interoperability standards and to vote in favor of moving the legislation forward as it stands today."

To learn more:
- here's the announcement