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Congressman Eric Swalwell

Representing the 15th District of California

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Swalwell Introduces Bipartisan Advancing Access to Precision Medicine Act

February 15, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) on Thursday introduced the bipartisan Advancing Access to Precision Medicine Act, to push forward use of genetic and genomic testing to improve and save lives.

The bill’s original cosponsors are Rep. John Shimkus (IL-15), Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52), Rep. Erik Paulsen (MN-03), and Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51).

“It’s time to use technology to transform our health care system to focus on the uniqueness of every patient – this is the future of medicine,” Swalwell said. “Genetic and genomic testing technology is getting better every day. We’re working in a bipartisan way to look ahead for ways to make it more accessible to Americans, in order to improve and save lives.”

Innovation in genomics has presented new opportunities to diagnose and treat genetic disorders like cancer and most rare diseases, as well as to predict predisposition to a disease. Genetic and genomic tests have the potential to further the emerging field of precision medicine – the customization of healthcare, with medical decisions, treatments, practices, or products tailored to the individual patient – and to cut health care costs by allowing better diagnoses and consideration of preventive measures.

But barriers including the lack of insurance coverage and inability to see relevant health professionals often impede access to genetic and genomic testing. The opportunity for a healthier America will be limited in the future unless patients have affordable access to such testing. With last year’s enactment of the 21st Century Cures Act – which streamlines the Food and Drug Administration’s drug and medical device approval process, and advances the Precision Medicine Initiative and Cancer Moonshot – we must do more to ensure innovative technologies are used effectively.

The Advancing Access to Precision Medicine Act would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Medicine to develop recommendations on how the federal government may reduce barriers to the utilization of genetic and genomic testing.

The bill also would let states to apply for an exception to the federal medical assistance percentage rate (FMAP) to provide whole genome sequencing clinical services for certain children on Medicaid who have an unresolved disease that is suspected to have a genetic cause. The purpose is to study whether such services help settle a child’s diagnostic odyssey, improve clinical outcomes, and ultimately reduce program expenditures.

“In a world in which therapies exist for only 5 percent of the 7,000 known rare diseases, genomic sequencing holds the potential to not only accelerate diagnoses, but also personalize treatments, and even speed development and approval of novel therapies,” Shimkus said. “Building on the successful 21st Century Cures Act, the Advancing Access to Precision Medicine Act would help low-income families access this innovative technology.”

The Advancing Access to Precision Medicine Act is supported by the Personalized Medicine Coalition, the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases, Biocom, and the American Society of Breast Surgeons.