Senate won't take up House's 21st Century Cures Act

The leader of a key Senate committee said Tuesday that the panel won't take up the House-passed 21st Century Cures Act, a far reaching bill intended to spur medical innovation, and would instead pursue many of its goals in smaller-bore legislation.

Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will vote on at least seven bipartisan bills beginning Feb. 9 ranging from expediting therapies for rare diseases to improving electronic health records. The Senate committee will consider additional bills in March and April, according to a news release.

“Senators and staff on our committee have been working together throughout 2015 to produce a number of bipartisan pieces of legislation that are ready for the full committee to consider,” Alexander said. “The House has completed its work on the 21st Century Cures Act. The president has announced his support for a precision medicine initiative and a cancer 'moonshot.' It is urgent that the Senate finish its work and turn into law these ideas that will help virtually every American."

The House Energy and Commerce Committee spent more than a year working on the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes more than $8 billion in additional funding for the National Institutes of Health. The legislation passed overwhelmingly in July.

But the measure has stalled in the Senate, mostly because Republicans and Democrats have failed to agree on how to pay for the bill.

“The Senate announcement is just the latest positive milestone in the effort to give patients and their loved ones more hope," said Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who sponsored the bill. "But we have much work left to do to make 21st Century Cures a reality."

Alexander said in his statement that the Senate HELP Committee would release a bipartisan draft this week on legislation to help achieve interoperability of electronic health records. The goal, Alexander said, is to facilitate physician documentation, ease patient access to their medical records, and make those documents more accessible to the entire healthcare team, including nurses.



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