Health care reform was one of the most important agenda items for the 111th Congress, and on March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. This landmark legislation incorporated several separate bills of particular interest to the cancer research community.
The following is an update from The American Association for Cancer Research and a corresponding call to action for cancer research advocates. There are legislative bills hanging in the balance that need the voice of public support to help push through.
The Cures Acceleration Network (CAN) Act, originally championed by Senator Arlen Specter, was incorporated into the enacted law. CAN’s provisions establish a new program at NIH and empower the NIH Director to use a variety of innovative funding mechanisms to support research that bridges the gap between laboratory discoveries and tangible benefits for patients and to rapidly develop “high-need cures.” The law authorized the expenditure of $500 million for the first year; however, according to the law, CAN cannot be launched without a corresponding appropriation specifically targeted to the program. (The Senate version of the bill covering appropriations for NCI for fiscal year 2011 includes $50 million for CAN; the House has not yet introduced its version.)
The Access to Cancer Clinical Trials Act – Update
Another bill folded into this measure is the Access to Cancer Clinical Trials Act, which prohibits health insurers from denying an individual access to an “approved” clinical trial (including those funded by NIH) and requires coverage for routine patient care costs.
Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute – Update
Several comparative effectiveness research provisions found their way into the health care reform legislation, as well. The law established a private nonprofit Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), run by a 21-member Board of Governors, to advance and fund comparative clinical effectiveness research.
No flat-funding cancer research!
Congress is preparing to complete work on a slate of unfinished FY2011 spending bills, including the measure that funds NIH and NCI.
If consensus can be reached to pass these bills quickly, NIH could receive up to a $1 billion increase. On the other hand, legislators could simply flat fund cancer research and other vital programs for up to another year by passing a continuing resolution.
Help urge your lawmakers to swiftly pass the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill with the proposed $1 billion increase for NIH and let them know what’s at stake if cancer research is flat funded.