Future of 21st Century Cures bill in jeopardy

The 21st Century Cures bill may be DOA when it hits the Senate floor--seeing little momentum after it sailed through the House.

The bill has been largely supported by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), but according to The National Journal, many may have supported the bill because his name was on it.

In addition, revenue made by the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which would have gone to support the legislation, may not be available, the article says.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee also has its own medical innovation bill in the works, which it will take up this fall.

"A lot of folks thought the Cures bill was a big turd sandwich," a lobbyist familiar with the situation tells the Journal. "I know as Cures was going through, the Senate was kind of rolling their eyes."

However, the article adds that members of the Energy and Commerce panel remain optimistic that at least some form of medical-innovation bill will work its way to President Barack Obama's desk.

"I don't think they're insurmountable," says Gary Andres, the majority staff director of Energy and Commerce, of the obstacles faced by the legislation. "I have a lot of confidence the Sen­ate will pro­duce a good product as well ... Every­body really wants to get this done."

An upcoming Senate HELP Committee hearing may help give more insight into the future of the bill. Members are set to gather for that hearing, "Achieving the Promise of Health Information Technology: Improving Care Through Patient Access to Their Records," on Sept. 16.

Despite the overwhelming House passage, the bill has seen its share of troubles. The legislation has raised privacy questions, including that the language in the bill could weaken HIPAA protections for patient data. To that end, patient privacy advocate Deborah Peel has called the Cures act "more of the same old, same old measures to increase the spread and use" of personal data while taking control out of patients' hands.

In addition, while the Obama administration came out in support of the bill, it noted concerns with the legislation. In particular, the White House said it worries "about providing additional funding for the National Institutes of Health and FDA without addressing sequestration more broadly."

To learn more:
- read the Journal article
- here's the hearing announcement