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W&M: Improving Americans’ Access to Health Care through the 21st Century Cures Act

November 25, 2016

This week, the House is expected to vote on the 21st Century Cures Act (the “Cures Act”), legislation to help more Americans access life-saving treatments. Sponsored by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), the legislation promotes innovation and advancements in technology, eliminates regulations that stifle competition, provides resources to combat the growing opioid epidemic, ensures critical support for those struggling with mental health, and supports cutting-edge research and the next generation of scientists.

The Cures Act incorporates several important bipartisan bills introduced by Ways and Means Committee Members that moved through regular order in the House and Senate.

Upon the introduction of the final legislation, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) said:

“The Cures Act will improve the lives of Americans from all walks of life for generations to come. This historic legislation will finally empower our scientists, researchers, and doctors with the tools they need to solve some of the biggest health challenges of our time. I’m grateful so many of our Members were able to contribute their ideas to expand access and improve the quality of care for our most vulnerable patients.

“None of this would have been possible without the leadership of Chairman Upton, who encouraged stakeholder participation and bipartisan collaboration at every step of the lawmaking process. I look forward to passing this legislation through the House and moving one step closer to delivering Americans 21st century cures.”

Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pat Tiberi (R-OH) added:

“The 21st Century Cures Act has vital solutions America’s scientists and doctors need to boost access and deliver top-notch care to patients. I am pleased that this bipartisan initiative includes two bills I introduced that will provide essential relief medical providers need to treat patients in their own communities. This effort reflects the hard work of my colleagues and countless advocates, researchers, innovators and professionals who are fighting to save lives, to give hope and to care for the sickest patients.”

The Ways and Means bills included in the Cures Act will expand access to quality care, increase choices, and reduce costs. Here’s how:

These bills provide regulatory relief for hospitals and post-acute care facilities:

  • H.R. 5273, the Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act or HIP-C (Pat Tiberi, Jim McDermott), removes regulations affecting hospitals, outpatient facilities, and ambulatory surgical centers so individuals and families can quickly access quality care. This includes:
    • H.R. 2580, the LTCH Technical Correction Act of 2015 (Charles Boustany)
    • H.R. 887, the Electronic Health Fairness Act of 2015 (Diane Black, Linda Sanchez)
  • H.R. 5613, the Continuing Access to Hospitals Act (Lynn Jenkins, David Loebsack) protects patient access to high-quality care in rural communities by alleviating a restriction that would put a strain on doctors at critical access hospitals—short-term stay hospitals located in remote, rural areas.
  • H.R. 5667, the companion bill to the Senate’s Rural ACO Provider Equity Act of 2015 (Lynn Jenkins, Linda Sanchez, David Loebsack) would lift barriers for certain rural providers to participate in accountable care organizations, allowing doctors to access more resources and deliver better care to seniors in rural communities.

These bills empower individuals, families, and job creators with more health care options:

  • H.R. 5273, the Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act or HIP-C also improves access to quality health care choices by strengthening transparency and protecting patients enrolled in Medicare Advantage from abruptly losing their coverage. This includes:
    • H.R. 2506, the Seniors’ Health Care Plan Protection Act of 2015 (Vern Buchanan, Charles Rangel) 
    • H.R. 2505, the Medicare Advantage Coverage Transparency Act of 2015 (Mike Kelly, Ron Kind) 
    • H.R. 5268, the Medicare Beneficiary Enrollment Improvement Act (Jim McDermott, Pat Meehan) 
    • H.R. 3291, the Medicare Crosswalk Hospital Code Development Act of 2015 (Paul Ryan)
  • H.R. 2911, the Small Business Healthcare Relief Act, (Charles Boustany, Mike Thompson) allows local employers to provide a competitive health benefit to their employees—known as health reimbursement accounts or HRAs—helping more individuals purchase an insurance plan or pay for out-of-pocket health care costs.
  • H.R. 2488, the Medicare Beneficiary Preservation Choice Act of 2015 (Keith Rothfus, Kurt Schrader) included in the Preservation of Access for Seniors in Medicare Advantage Act of 2015 (Kevin Brady) restores a provision eliminated in the Affordable Care Act that provides a second open enrollment period and disenrollment period for Medicare beneficiaries so that seniors have more flexibility to switch plans to better meet their health needs.
  • H.R. 556, the companion to the Senate’s Prevent Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act of 2015 (Gus Bilirakis, Ben Lujan, Paul Tonko, Mike Kelly, Pat Meehan), prevents unnecessary gaps in care by allowing a qualified substitute therapist to continue care if a patient’s physical therapist is unavailable.

These bills help America’s most vulnerable patients:

  • H.R. 5273, the Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act or HIP-C also strengthens supports for hospitals that treat cancer patients, low-income patients, and patients in rural communities. This includes:
    • H.R. 1314, the Establishing Beneficiary Equity in the Hospital Readmission Program Act (Jim Renacci)
  • H.R. 5210, the PADME Act (Tom Price, David Loebsack), delays cuts made by CMS to suppliers of durable medical equipment provided to seniors in rural areas.

 to learn more about the Cures Act.