Obama signs 21st Century Cures Act into law

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President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law, authorizing $6.3 billion in biomedical research funding—$4.8 billion of which will go to the National Institutes of Health.

NIH’s high-ticket items funded by the law include $1.8 billion for Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, $1.6 billion for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, and $1.4 billion for President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative.

The legislation was passed last week in the Senate 94-5 and in the House of Representatives on November 30 by a vote of 392-26 before it was sent to the President for his signature.

Also See: Senate passes 21st Century Cures Act, Obama to sign it into law

Speaking at the White House signing ceremony, Obama commended Democrats and Republicans for working together in a bipartisan manner to overwhelmingly pass the legislation in the closing days of the Congress.

“We are bringing to reality the possibility of new breakthroughs to some of the greatest health challenges of our time,” said Obama, who noted that the BRAIN Initiative will “revolutionize our understanding of the human mind” and lauded the Precision Medicine Initiative for its effort to “use data to help modernize research and accelerate discovery so that treatment in healthcare can be tailored specifically to individual patients.”

Vice President Biden added that the 21st Century Cures Act will “harness America’s best minds, science, medicine and technology to tackle some of our biggest and most complex health challenges.” The Cancer Moonshot, renamed by the Senate after Biden’s son, Beau, who died of cancer, seeks to make a decade’s worth of progress in five years in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

According to Obama, the United States “should be the country that ends cancer once and for all” and the Cancer Moonshot will “invest in promising new therapies, developing vaccines and improving cancer detection and prevention.”

The 21st Century Cures Act signed by Obama also includes several health information technology provisions designed to improve electronic health records and EHR interoperability.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives praised the enactment of 21st Century Cures Act for helping to pave the way to greater interoperability and improve electronic health information exchange.

“The law reflects the growing need to develop a standards-based information exchange infrastructure,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell. “Significantly, the law also contains several CHIME-supported provisions that address the critical issues of accurately identifying patients and matching them to their health records. The absence of national solutions for patient identification and patient matching not only pose serious risks to patient safety, but also lead resources being wasted on cleaning up duplicative medical records, as well as creating other inefficiencies.”

Branzell said that CHIME also supported language in the law that will create a more transparent process for certifying EHR systems as well as a process that will include real-world testing for interoperability.

“This will add a layer of confidence that health IT systems are capable of supporting the transition to a more integrated and value-based delivery system,” he concluded.

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