Women's Health

A Recap: HealthyWomen Webinar, “CURES 2.0: Leading Women’s Health Forward”


The United States Congress has the power to give women resources, tools, and treatments to improve their own health and that of their families. According to HealthyWomen CEO Beth Battaglino, RN-C, bipartisan legislation passing through Congress — the Cures 2.0 Act — would do just that.

To examine the key provisions and implications of the legislation, HealthyWomen hosted a webinar, “CURES 2.0: Leading Women’s Health Forward,” on May 11, 2022. Moderated by Arika Pierce, JD, Founder and CEO of Piercing Strategies, a leadership coaching, the webinar featured a range of healthcare experts.

CURES 2.0 is a continuation of bipartisan legislation passed in 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act, several elements of which are to be reauthorized by the end of 2022. CURES 2.0 would build on the programs, policies and investments included in the first package and advance medical research, improve access to new treatments, support caregivers and remove barriers to telehealth.

Battaglino noted that women need all of the elements of the CURES 2.0 legislation to live long and healthy lives. “CURES 2.0 would go a long way to ensuring that these essential services are available to all American women. After more than two years of the Covid pandemic, this legislation has never been more urgent,” she said.

The impact on caregivers

Fawn Cothran, Ph.D., RN, GCNS-BC, FGSA, Hunt Research Director at the National Alliance for Caregiving, shared key facts about America’s caregivers. There are 53 million unpaid carers, the majority of whom are women who often care for more than one person over several generations. Unpaid carers spend an average of 24 hours a week on caring responsibilities, the equivalent of a part-time job, and nearly 60% also work in paid jobs.

Despite the benefits of caregiving, such as a sense of purpose and satisfaction, many caregivers also suffer from stress, declining physical and mental health, financial challenges, invisibility and isolation – which have only gotten worse during the pandemic.

“Caregivers and all they do are often not seen or recognized as the valuable team members and experts that they are,” Cothran said.

According to Cothran, CURES 2.0 could benefit caregivers in three specific ways. First, it would improve the federal infrastructure for family caregivers through social supports. Second, it would provide training and skill building for caregivers to perform specialized clinical tasks between health care visits. Finally, it would contribute to better data collection for clinical research and measurement with diverse caregiver communities.

Clinical improvements

According to Jeannine Brant, Ph.D., APRN-CNS, AOCN, FAAN, executive director of clinical science and innovation at the City of Hope Cancer Center and president of the Oncology Nursing Society.

Brant focused on three ways CURES 2.0 could continue to modernize treatments and improve patient care.

First, Brant discussed the importance of the patient’s voice in clinical care. Only about 20% of organizations routinely collect patient-reported outcomes (PROs), which highlight real patient experiences. According to Brant, patients tend to underreport — and providers tend to underestimate — symptoms. CURES 2.0 would encourage research designs that include patient experience data.

CURES 2.0 would also expand access to genetic testing that improves cancer risk assessment, prevention, diagnosis and access to clinical trials. Additionally, it would reduce racial, financial, and cultural barriers to participation in clinical trials, increasing the diversity of study populations and benefiting groups that have historically been excluded from clinical research.

Another key feature of CURES 2.0 is expanding access to telehealth by permanently easing some of the restrictions in place before the pandemic. During the pandemic, telehealth has ensured continuity of care, allowing providers to protect and initiate or maintain communication with vulnerable patients while facilitating continued participation in clinical trials.

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Building on Brant’s assessment of the clinical value of telehealth, Nisha Quasba, an adviser at the federal advocacy consulting firm of Faegre Drinker, a law and advocacy firm, delved into the details of the policy.

Before the pandemic, Medicare — which often sets coverage standards for other insurers — required patients using telehealth to be in specific geographic areas (eg, rural areas) and in certain healthcare facilities. Only certain healthcare providers and services were covered.

During the pandemic, restrictions were lifted so patients could use telehealth from anywhere, more providers could offer it, and more services were covered.

While some of these changes were extended through the omnibus package passed in 2021, other telehealth restrictions will return with the expiration of the public health emergency, which was first declared in 2020 and has been extended several times.

CURES 2.0 includes the Telehealth Modernization Act, which would preserve telehealth flexibility in Medicare and prevent what Quasba called a “telehealth cliff,” the sudden return to more restrictive policies that would essentially cut off access to telehealth for millions of Americans. The TIKES Act, another part of CURES 2.0, would similarly support access to telehealth for low-income children on Medicaid.

Quasba offered three takeaways from the success of telehealth, calling for these gains to be preserved. First, providers and patients have learned to use telehealth and many prefer it. Second, telehealth has been effective in protecting patients and providers and reducing the spread of Covid-19. Finally, the technology can be used for effective remote monitoring and clinical support.

Look forward

The final speaker, Ashira Vantrees, JD, staff attorney at Aimed Alliance, a nonprofit health policy organization committed to helping protect consumers and healthcare providers, applauded CURES 2.0 for its potential to improve caregiver support, increase the diversity of clinical trials and preserve access to telehealth. , but her remarks also touched on actions she would like to see Congress take after addressing CURES 2.0.

“Improving health care in this country is not a solution to any one problem,” Ventrees said. “Congress must continue to examine health care from multiple angles.”

Vantrees suggested two priorities for Congress going forward: 1) access and coverage of biomarker testing and 2) coverage of precision digital therapies.

Biomarker testing can shed light on an individual’s cancer and the best treatment options for it, but insurers often don’t cover it. Congress could require private health plans and public programs to cover biomarker testing without undue administrative hurdles.

Precision Digital Therapies are digital health tools that have been reviewed and cleared by the FDA and are dispensed with a prescription from a licensed clinician. They exist for conditions such as ADHD, insomnia, and opioid use disorder. Congress could pass laws to ensure access to prescriptions for these tools.

These changes are consistent with what Congress is already doing to recognize the role technology plays in health care, Vantrees said. Addressing them is simply the logical next step for Congress.

The HealthyWomen webinar highlighted issues for caregivers, medical advances and access to telehealth. Expert panelists agreed that building on previous bipartisan legislation, the CURES 2.0 Act could improve the health and well-being of women across the United States — but only if Congress acts.

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