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Chairman Smith Opening Statement – Markup of Health Care Innovation Legislation

June 27, 2024

As prepared for delivery

“American innovation has delivered some of the world’s greatest medical breakthroughs that have saved countless lives while improving the quality of life for millions more. With these technologies, treatments, and medicine, we have found new ways to treat old diseases. We can help not only Americans live healthier, but also bring down long-term health care expenses. The only thing standing in the way of a better life for seniors and these new treatments are outdated and burdensome government rules and regulations.

“Each bill considered today cuts that red tape and gives seniors access to advanced, cutting-edge medicine.

“Our first bill promotes early detection of cancer in order to help individuals take the preventive steps and care they need much earlier in the process than ever before. Introduced by Chairman Arrington and Representative Sewell, the bill bears the name of Representative Sewell’s late mother, Nancy Gardner Sewell. Sadly, she passed away after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer and left behind a legacy of service to her community and the State of Alabama. Cancer has touched the lives of millions of Americans. Every person sitting here can think of at least one person in their family or immediate circle impacted by cancer.

“New screening technology has given us the power to detect multiple types of cancer with a single drop of blood. This legislation grants access to these innovative tests through Medicare to better detect cancers and ensure patients receive the timely care they deserve. Over the next 10 years, we are projected to spend close to a trillion dollars treating cancer, 75 percent of that on late-stage cancer. If we can detect the signs of cancer earlier, we can help Americans not only live healthier, but help bring down the costs of fighting this disease over the long term.

“The second bill, introduced by Health Subcommittee Chairman Buchanan, improves the Medicare process for approving coverage for new drugs and medical devices. American innovators are currently forced to navigate a thicket of inefficiency, delays, and unclear rules to get these products approved. This legislation makes the process faster, more efficient, and more transparent. I want to thank Representatives Buchanan, Kelly, Schweikert, Smucker, Hern, Fitzpatrick, LaHood, and Malliotakis who have all contributed their ideas and proposals to the underlying bill. I’d also like to thank our colleagues on the other side for their efforts on this bill, including Representatives Sanchez, Evans, and McGovern.

“Health care innovation is progressing further and faster, in part thanks to the potential shown by AI to improve health care in this country. To that end, this package requires Medicare to proactively embrace this new technology and explore what options exist to cover AI-powered health care and digital therapies. It also harnesses technology to improve care for seniors, like granting access to medically-tailored meals after health procedures and requiring that up-to-date devices are used when administering cognitive impairment tests for Alzheimer’s.

“Our third bill we will consider is from Dr. Wenstrup and Representative DelBene, which provides expedited Medicare coverage for breakthrough medical devices. Right now, instead of helping seniors, new devices sit on the sidelines for up to 5 years after FDA approval, helping nobody. This bill provides an immediate four years of Medicare coverage for these devices to provide assistance to seniors while Medicare determines if the device should be permanently covered.

“Our last bill, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, is introduced by Dr. Wenstrup and Representative Gwen Moore. Obesity is a risk factor for numerous other diseases and leading causes of death such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Mr. Schweikert’s Joint Economic Committee recently published a report that finds over the next decade, obesity will cost taxpayers more than $4 trillion and the disease will lead to an additional $9 trillion in medical expenses. We need to get a handle on this growing problem now.

“Fortunately, new drugs are helping millions of Americans lose weight, get their health back, and manage diseases associated with obesity.

“Unfortunately, many of these same patients risk reversing their progress once they enroll in Medicare because the program doesn’t cover anti-obesity medications. In fact, without this legislation, over 1 million Americans will lose access to these medications as they transition into Medicare in the coming years.Dr. Wenstrup’s legislation corrects this urgent need to address continuity of care by allowing Medicare to cover anti-obesity medication for new Medicare patients already taking the drug.

“There is more opportunity to use new medicine and technology to reduce the financial pressure created by obesity and I stand committed to continuing to pursue those goals so all Medicare beneficiaries can obtain access and coverage. However, without this bill, seniors will face the choice of losing access to these drugs or paying thousands out-of- pocket. Future taxpayers will then foot the bill for health services that were preventable. It is in our nation’s immediate and long-term interest to take this first step and I urge all of my colleagues to support addressing this urgent need.

“It’s critical that seniors can access the best medication, tests, and devices they need. I urge my colleagues to support each one of these bills.”