House passes 21st Century Cures Act

The House of Representatives voted in favor of the 21st Century Cures Act (H.R. 6), 344-77, sending the bill forward to the Senate. 

H.R. 6 touches on a wide range of issues related to the healthcare industry. It makes it easier for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve prescription drugs and medical devices, includes an increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and repeals radiology's 25% professional component multiple procedure payment reduction (MPPR), among other provisions.

The authors of the bill, including Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), released a statement soon after the vote was final.

“Today, we took a big leap on the path to cures, but we still have much work left to do,” they said. “The 344 votes today should be a springboard for action.”

The 21st Century Cures Act has had strong bipartisan support since the beginning. It unanimously passed through the House Energy and Commerce Committee back in May, and a total of 230 members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, have signed on as co-sponsors.

The bill has had its share of detractors as well. The American Hospital Association, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, and American Telemedicine Association all called out different aspects of the bill. And in a recent commentary for The New England Journal of Medicinetwo physicians argued that the changes to the drug and medical device approval process were too extreme. They described the current model as “quite efficient” and said the FDA already approved drugs and devices in a comparatively short amount of time.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) did not vote for the bill even though he was one of its original co-sponsors. He explained that last-minute changes to the bill turned it into “another runaway government program,” so he had to vote against it.