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Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Mental Wellbeing

21st Century Cures Bill Unanimously Passes Committee, Now Heads to House Floor

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Today, the 21st Century Cures bill took an important step forward in the House when it was unanimously passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The wide-ranging legislative agenda now heads to the House floor where it will await a vote by the full chamber. Committee Chairman Fred Upton said recently that he hopes to have a bill to the President by the end of the year.

The 21st Century Cures Initiative is a comprehensive legislative agenda designed to foster improvements and innovation throughout the US health system, including eliminating barriers to telehealth services.  While specific language regarding telehealth provisions is still being ironed out, the inclusion of placeholder language is a good sign for advocates as earlier indications had the subcommittee removing the telehealth portion of the bill entirely.

Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Tim Murphy (R-PA), key members of the Committee’s Telehealth Working Group, have fought hard to maintain telehealth language in the bill and remove barriers to the implementation and utilization of these important services. Eliminating these barriers would expand Americans’ access to mental health and substance use treatment services in rural areas where options are scarce. Rep. Matsui made clear that the Cures legislation does not go far enough and that the Working Group would continue its efforts to expand Medicare reimbursement for telehealth adoption.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is working on similar efforts, but has not yet had a bill introduced on the floor. Any differences in legislation approved by Congress would have to be reconciled in order to be signed by the President.