December 07, 2016

21st Century CURES Act to advance cancer research in Hawaii

Bill also shores up access to essential medical equipment for Hawaii seniors

Senator Mazie K. Hirono voted to support the 21st Century CURES Act, a comprehensive bill to accelerate medical research, which passed the Senate today.

“This bill directs additional resources to Hawaii researchers on the cutting edge of uncovering new cancer treatments and strengthens seniors’ access to essential durable medical equipment under Medicare’s new reimbursement system,” said Senator Hirono.

"I am grateful for Senator Hirono's support of the 21st Century CURES Act,” said Dr. Randall Holcombe, Director of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center. “This legislation will accelerate the pace of cancer research at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and provide direct benefit for the people of Hawaii.”

“We are grateful that Congress included relief for Hawaii residents living in rural areas in this important legislation,” said George Greene, Healthcare Association of Hawaii President and CEO. “We also reiterate our thanks to Senator Hirono for her tireless work on this issue. This legislation will open the door to further actions that could address the access issues our providers have faced since cuts started almost four years ago. We look forward to continuing our work with Senator Hirono and our government officials in making sure that Hawaii’s seniors have access to the medical equipment and supplies they need.”

The bill includes $4.8 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health for research, including nearly $2 billion for Vice President Joe Biden’s moonshot initiative to accelerate finding cures for cancer. As one of only 69 National Cancer Center-designated centers in the nation, the University of Hawaii Cancer Center is eligible for funding to advance research on the genetic diversity of tumors and the mechanisms of cancer development.

The 21st Century CURES Act also includes language Senator Hirono fought for to help Hawaii seniors access essential medical equipment. Because of changes in Medicare reimbursement rates, Hawaii Medicare beneficiaries have been at a disadvantage in procuring medical equipment such as oxygen tanks and wheelchairs. The legislation passed today eases these cuts, as well as calling for the long-term evaluation of the detrimental effects the rate changes have on rural communities like those in Hawaii.