Public health measures headed to House with bipartisan nods

But a committee votes along party lines to reject a GOP resolution calling for Obama administration records on the cost of reform.

By Doug Trapp — Posted Oct. 4, 2010

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Partisanship in Congress may be peaking, but at a Sept. 23 markup, Republican and Democratic members of a House committee unanimously adopted 16 bills aimed at a variety of diseases, conditions and health disparities.

Among other things, the measures would reauthorize a cord blood donation program, raise awareness about children's concussions, and set guidelines for diagnosing and preventing concussions in student athletes.

House Energy and Commerce Committee members did not agree on these bills in July, said Rep. Frank Pallone (D, N.J.), chair of the panel's health subcommittee. But in recent weeks, negotiations between Republicans and Democrats allowed the panel to adopt the bills without dissent. Most of the bills had been scheduled for consideration on the House floor as of this article's press time, but their road to President Obama's desk is unclear. The Senate's calendar will be limited for the rest of the year and is crowded with high-priority legislation, such as annual spending bills.

Partisanship returned by the end of the Sept. 23 hearing, however. Members voted 26-17 along party lines to reject a resolution by Rep. Michael Burgess (R, Texas) calling for Obama administration records pertaining to the cost of the health reform law.

Burgess suspects that administration officials withheld cost estimates of the health reform law in the days before it was enacted into law on March 23.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D, Calif.) said Burgess' resolution is far too broad.

Noncontroversial stem cells

Of the bills adopted, the measure closest to being enacted into law is the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2010, sponsored by Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R, Fla.). The bill would reauthorize and revise a similar 2005 law that includes the National Cord Blood Inventory Program, which collects donated umbilical cord blood. The blood is used to treat patients with life-threatening blood cancers or metabolic or immune system disorders, such as leukemia. Cord blood also is used in research because it is rich in blood-forming stem cells.

The Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R, Utah), was approved unanimously by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Sept. 23.

The House Energy and Commerce committee also adopted the Concussion Treatment and Care Tools Act of 2010, sponsored by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D, N.J.). The bill would require the Health and Human Services secretary to convene a conference of medical, athletic and education professionals to create concussion management guidelines for student athletes.

It also would authorize the HHS secretary to give grants to states to implement new concussion policies and purchase equipment schools could use to test whether a child has sustained a concussion.

Pascrell said more people need to realize that a concussion is brain damage. "We need to be prepared with the right protocols and guidelines to help our children when they sustain a concussion as they participate in sports." The Senate version awaits health panel action.

The House committee also adopted:

  • The Heart Disease Education, Analysis Research and Treatment for Women Act, sponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D, Calif.). It would require the HHS secretary to reject pharmaceutical applications if they do not include safety and effectiveness information for subgroups based on gender, age and race. The Senate version awaits health panel action.
  • The Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act of 2009, sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D, Calif.). It would authorize the HHS secretary to conduct a national arthritis campaign involving research, grants and education. The Senate version has been assigned to the health panel.

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