“Our hospitals are under an enormous strain.”

By on January 13, 2022 in Featured News, News

Upton Talks About the Impact of the Omicron Variant on Michigan and the Effort He is Leading to Craft a Follow-up to the 21st Century Cures Act

WASHINGTON, DC — In remarks yesterday before a virtual meeting of The Ripon Society, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (MI-6) discussed the impact of the omicron variant on the people he represents back home, and the effort he is spearheading to craft a follow-up to the 21st Century Cures Act, the landmark bill he authored that paved the way for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re expecting 200,000 cases a week in Michigan for the next couple of weeks,” stated the veteran lawmaker (pictured above addressing an in-person meeting of The Ripon Society last September).  “Our hospitals are under an enormous strain.  I’ve got some big ones in my district. We’re in communication with them literally every week talking to the administrators and healthcare workers.  It’s been a real struggle.  Across the state, we have a positivity rate of 33%.  

“I represent six counties. In Allegan County, we’ve had a 61% increase in COVID cases just in the last week, with a positivity rate of almost 30%.  In Berrien County, my home county, we’ve had a 47% increase in cases, with a positivity rate of 36%. In Kalamazoo County, which is almost half my district, we’ve had a 78% increase over the last seven days, with a positivity rate of over 32%. In Van Buren County, we’ve seen a 70% increase in the last seven days.  I mean, it’s the same for all of them.”

Upton, whose work as the author of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act helped pave the way for the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, also discussed the effort he is spearheading to craft a follow-up measure to the landmark bill today. 

“It was hailed as the most significant piece of legislation enacted in a lot of years,” Upton said of 21st Century Cures.  “And the proof is in the pudding. We saved a lot of lives because of it. Diana DeGette and I have been working on the next version of that — Cures 2.0.”

Upton and DeGette introduced the Cures 2.0 legislation this past November.  Designed to revolutionize how the U.S. provides care to patients, the 173-page bill includes several provisions aimed at speeding up the delivery of groundbreaking, new – and potentially lifesaving – cures, treatments and innovations to those who need them most. 

The legislation would also create an entirely new agency aimed at ending some of the world’s most difficult diseases.  Called the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, the proposed new agency would be housed within the National Institutes of Health and tasked with finding new cures and treatments to a slate of illnesses that affect tens of millions of Americans across the country.  

Other provisions in Cures 2.0 would help deliver new cures and treatments to patients sooner – and improve the overall level of care Americans are provided.  Specifically, the legislation would: 

  • Transform how Medicare covers innovative new treatments and technologies to make those new discoveries available to patients sooner.
  • Increase access to telehealth services for Medicare and Medicaid patients, including those covered under the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, to ensure more Americans are getting the help they need, when they need it. 
  • Provide training and educational programs for at-home caregivers – including family members with no prior health care experience to help them better care for loved ones when they are home.
  • Require more diversity in clinical trials to ensure any new drugs and treatments approved for use in the U.S. are both safe and effective for a greater – and more representative – portion of the population.
  • Provide patients more information about the illness they face and the treatment options available to them to make them a more integral part of the decision-making process.

The legislation would also take steps to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to:

  • Conduct a nationwide study on the implications of long COVID; and; 
  • Develop a nationwide testing and vaccine distribution strategy to be used in future pandemics. 

In his remarks on Wednesday morning, Upton also noted how COVID is continuing to impact the way legislative business is conducted on Capitol Hill.

“When I was Chairman of the Energy & Commerce Committee,” he said, “we had eight or nine hearings every week.  A lot a good work was done, and much of it was bipartisan. That was always my m.o. as Chairman and to their credit, both Greg Walden and Frank Pallone kept the same rules that at least when we go to markup, bipartisan amendments go first.

“Today, we’re doing Hollywood Squares.  We’ve got 56 Members, with people in different time zones and people forgetting to mute and unmute themselves. When you don’t have that personal interaction, being able to buttonhole people and talk about an amendment that’s important to you, it’s a lot harder.  As a consequence, you have less oversight, you have fewer hearings, and you don’t have the work being done that’s needed to find the legislative solutions to get things fixed.”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.

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