Tuesday, September 30, 2008

U.S. House passes bills about breast cancer, Down syndrome

From Congressional Quarterly as reported in Medical News Today:

The House on Sept. 25 passed two bills that would improve hospital care for breast cancer patients and increase research into the environmental causes of the disease, CQ Today reports. The breast cancer bill (HR 758), which passed 421-2, would prevent both individual and group health insurance plans from limiting hospital stays for women who have undergone mastectomies or lumpectomies to less than 48 hours, or 24 hours for women who have had a lymph node dissection, unless a physician determines a shorter stay is medically appropriate.

Twenty states currently require coverage for minimal hospital stays following a mastectomy. The measure now heads to the Senate, where a companion bill (S 459) has 19 co-sponsors. A Republican aide in the Senate said that the bill was unlikely to clear the chamber this week because some senators want more time to study the issue.

The House on Thursday also passed legislation (HR 1157) by voice vote that would authorize $40 million in additional annual spending through fiscal year 2012 to the NIH for breast cancer research-related activities. Although the bill does not instruct the agency to perform specific research, it aims to encourage studies on the relationship between breast cancer and the environment, which, according to the measure's supporters, is not well understood.

According to CQ Today, the bill also would establish an Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee within HHS. The committee would be staffed by breast cancer advocates, as well as members of scientific and medical communities, and would make recommendations and solicit proposals for breast cancer research. A Senate companion bill (S 579) with 70 cosponsors is expected to clear the chamber later this week, CQ Today reports (Demirjian, CQ Today, 9/25).

The House passed a bill (S 1810) by voice vote that would require physicians to provide information and support services to patients receiving a positive test diagnosis for Down syndrome or other prenatally and postnatally diagnosed conditions. The bill now heads to President Bush, who is expected to sign the measure (Wayne, CQ Today, 9/25).