December 09, 2016

Senate Passes 21st Century Cures Act

The U.S. Senate passed H.R. 34, the 21st Century Cures Act, on Dec. 7 by a vote of 95-4.

The Senate made no changes to this sweeping biomedical reform bill that was approved by the House of Representatives last week. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law in the coming days.

The 21st Century Cures Act is dedicated primarily to modernizing and streamlining the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval process for pharmaceutical and medical devices. Additionally, it authorizes $4.8 billion of new National Institute of Health funding for Obama Administration legacy projects, such as the Cancer Moonshot, the Precision Medicine Initiative and the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The additional federal funding, however, is still subject to the annual Congressional appropriations process.

H.R. 34 also includes major changes to various health IT and health information exchange policies, modifications to site neutral payment and telehealth regulations, and bipartisan mental health reform legislation.

With the exception of Sens. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the vast majority of Democrats voted in favor of the bill despite reservations about its funding levels and the overarching process used to formulate the legislation.

The American College of Radiology (ACR) applauds the House and Senate for passing this legislation, which includes several ACR-supported provisions, such as expanded biomedical research funding and information-blocking prohibitions. The College urges President Obama to expeditiously sign this bill into law.