- The House of Representatives has passed the 21st Century Cures Act by an overwhelming majority of 392 to 26.*
*Editor's note: President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on December 13.
In a statement made by Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, the bill was touted as a game-changer for patients and integral for healthcare innovation.
“The real winners today are American families whose lives stand to be improved by the Cures legislation passed overwhelmingly today by the House and that we should pass by a wide margin in the Senate,” Alexander said.
“This bipartisan legislation – which Majority Leader McConnell has called ‘the most important legislation Congress will pass this year’ – will help us take advantage of the breathtaking advances in biomedical research and bring those innovations to doctors’ offices and patients’ medicine cabinets around the country.”
Specifically, the bill will help progress various industry initiatives, all aiming to bring cures to diseases that afflict a significant population.
“This legislation will advance Vice-President Biden’s moonshot to find cures for cancer, President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative, and Alzheimer’s research – and it will help states in the fight against opioid abuse and the one in five adults in this country suffering from a mental illness,” Alexander continued. “It’s time for the Senate to deliver on the promise of 21st Century Cures for patients.”
The bill’s passage was applauded by industry groups such as the American Medical Informatics Association.
“AMIA welcomes passage of Cures legislation by the House Wednesday meant to provide much-needed funds for the National Institutes of Health and Food & Drug Administration to continue work on Precision Medicine, the Cancer Moonshot and BRAIN Initiatives,” said AMIA’s President and CEO Douglas B. Fridsma, MD, PhD, FACP, FACMI, in a public statement.
“It is critical that the 115th Congress fund these efforts, as established in this legislation, so that progress to deliver new cures and improve treatments can continue for the life of this legislation.”
Late last week, House Republicans reintroduced a revised version of the bill reportedly in hopes of pushing it through during the lame duck session in Congress. The revised 21st Century Cures Act called for more effective use of EHRs and health IT.
Specifically, the revised bill called for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to “establish a goal with respect to the reduction of regulatory or administrative burdens (such as documentation requirements) relating to the use of electronic health records,” and subsequently create a strategy to achieve such a goal.
Additionally, the revised bill asks ONC to work on progressing certified EHR technology and health IT, specifically in the realm of information blocking. By making clear distinctions about what constitutes information blocking as well as consequences for the practice, ONC will play its role to improve healthcare technology use.
The bill also includes funding to use health data to drive cures, allocating $4.8 billion to the National Institutes of Health to be split among different goals: $1.8 billion will go toward the Cancer Moonshot, $1.4 billion will fund the Precision Medicine Initiative, and $1.6 billion will go toward the BRAIN Initiative which contributes Alzheimer’s research.
Additionally, the bill allocates $500 million to the Food and Drug Administration to streamline the regulation of certain drugs, and $1 billion in grants to help fight the opioid crisis.