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Tweaked $6.3 Billion Cures Act Bill Heads to Senate

By HealthLeaders Media News  
   December 02, 2016

HR 34 promises investments in cancer research, mental-health parity, opioid addiction, and more.

The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed the complex and controversial 21st Century Cures Act by a vote of 392 to 26, opening the door to sweeping changes in healthcare policy ranging from funding for biomedical research to the speed with which the Food and Drug Administration approves new drugs and devices.

"Like all comprehensive legislation, the bill is not perfect, and there are provisions the Administration would prefer were improved, but the legislation offers advances in health that far outweigh these concerns," the White House said Tuesday.

HR 34 is expected to pass through the Senate to receive the President's signature promptly, according to the Office of the Press Secretary. A previous version of the legislation stalled in the Senate before Congress's election-year summer session.

The latest iteration spans 996 pages and designates $6.3 billion in spending over the next decade. Funding for the bill comes from reallocation of funds previously allocated for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the Affordable Care Act's Prevention and Public Health Fund, and territory funding. Other offsets include Medicare and Medicaid payment changes.

Those funds, however, must be re-appropriated annually, a stipulation being criticized by Democrats.

Key provisions of the bill in its current forms are:

  • New funding of $4.8 billion (down from $9.3 billion) for the National Institutes of Health
     
  • Investment of $1 billion in grants to states to fight the nation's heroin and prescription opioid addiction epidemic
     
  • Investment of $1.8 billion in new resources to support the Vice President's cancer moonshot
     
  • Investment of nearly $3 billion during the next 10 years to continue the President's BRAIN and Precision Medicine Initiatives to research and seek cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's
     
  • Expansion of the President's Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force
     
  • Funding of $500 million for the FDA (reduced from $550 million) to hire more staff and speed up processes

A change of particular interest to physicians would have made exceptions for certain educationally related gifts, such as textbooks, from pharmaceutical companies to doctors. It has been removed.

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