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.”
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. 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.