Obama signs 21st Century Cures Act into law, funding precision medicine, Cancer Moonshot, EHR improvements

Vice President Biden joined the president in signing the bill, which passed through Congress with overwhelming approval.
By Jessica Davis
09:24 AM
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Obama 21st Century Cures

(Photo: Whitehouse.gov)

After more than two years in the making, President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law on December 13.

The bill passed with overwhelming approval in both the House and Senate. The bi-partisan legislation provides $6.3 billion to electronic health records, precision medicine, mental health and interoperability.

"It's so nice to see both parties coming together for a common cause," President Obama said. "I think it indicates the power of this issue and how deeply it touches every family across America.

"Today with the Cures Act, we are making good on those (technology) efforts," he added. "We're bringing to reality some new breakthroughs to tackle some of the greater health challenges of our time."

[Also: 21st Century Cures Act brings provisions for EHRs, interoperability, precision medicine and more]

The bill includes $1 billion in state grants over the next two years to combat the opioid abuse and addiction epidemic. It also contains $4.8 billion to advance Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative, Obama's BRAIN Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden.

"This is a consequential piece of legislation," said Biden. "Without true bipartisan support, this legislation would have never occurred. The 21st Century Cures Act is going to harness the best minds, science and technology to tackle some of the biggest healthcare challenges today.

"God willing, this bill will literally save lives," he continued. "It gives millions of Americans hope; this is going to accelerate the kinds of efforts, right now, to extend life."

The bill also contains provisions to push federal agencies and the healthcare industry to use EHR systems and collect data for both research and treatment.

However, the law has raised concerns in the healthcare industry – with some criticizing cuts in funding from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, Medicaid and Medicare, deregulation of the FDA's approval process and a lack of provisions to combat rising drug prices.

Despite this, however, the president and other federal officials are steadfast in the positive impacts the bill will have on healthcare innovation.

"The law has provisions that will improve HHS ability to promote interoperability, combat data blocking and foster transparency in the marketplace," said National Coordinator for Health IT Vindell Washington, MD, at the HIMSS Connected Health Conference in National Harbor, Maryland on December 13. "It doesn't have all the funding currently needed, but the infrastructure is set up for us to be successful."

"These efforts build upon the work we have done to improve healthcare over the last eight years. I'm hopeful in the years ahead Congress will keep working together to help us move forward and not backward on improving healthcare for millions of Americans," Obama said. "It's good day to see us doing our jobs."

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com


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