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President Obama Signs 21st Century Cures Bill

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President Obama Signs 21st Century Cures Bill

On Tuesday, December 13, 2016 the president signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law, after more than a year of bipartisan negotiations.

“It’s wonderful to see how well Democrats and Republicans in the closing days of this Congress came together around a common cause,” Obama said at the signing ceremony, surrounded by members of Congress of both parties. “I think it indicates the power of this issue and how deeply it touches every family across America.”[1]

 A section of this bill provides new money for the National Institutes of Health and additional funds for the FDA including provisions for speeding up the approval of new drugs. The mental health portion draws on the years of work of Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa).  The parties put aside their differences to pass this legislation to establish a new assistant secretary for mental health in the Department of Health and Human Services as well as a chief medical officer. Murphy argues that these positions will bring more accountability and medical knowledge to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency he has criticized as ineffective.[2]  The bill also authorizes grants for areas such as suicide prevention and seeks to improve the enforcement of “parity” rules that require insurance companies to cover mental health services to the same degree that they cover physical health services. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) and Bill Cassidy (R-La) worked on those sections and others in the mental health portion of the bill.

The Sarnoff Center will be following the fate of ObamaCare in Congress in 2017 and how possible changes in the legislation may affect healthcare for the general population and especially those with rare diseases.


[1] Sullivan, Peter, TheHill.com/policy/healthcare/310223-obama-signs-medical-cures-bill-into-law, 12/13/16

[2] Ibid.


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