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December 07, 2016

Senate Passes Bill to Promote Innovation in Fight Against Pressing Health Care Challenges

Bill authorizes funding to fight opioid epidemic, creates working group for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, bolsters NIH research & includes comprehensive mental health care reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the support of U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), the United States Senate today passed the 21st Century Cures Act, legislation that will help address some of the most pressing health care issues currently facing America. By promoting innovation and bolstering investment in medical research, the Cures Act will provide vital support for efforts across the country on issues such as the opioid epidemic, mental health reform, tick-borne diseases like Lyme, Alzheimer’s, cancer, physical therapy, and medical software technology.

“By investing in innovation and empowering our nation’s brightest minds, this legislation will spur medical research that will help solve some of the most difficult health challenges facing Americans today,” Senator King said. “Importantly, it will finally start to provide much-needed resources in the critical fight against opioid addiction, which continues to take lives and tear at the fabric of Maine communities, and it will also bolster efforts to combat Lyme disease and help advance research to cure Alzheimer’s and cancer – all of which have touched countless people across Maine.”

The 21st Century Cures Act is a $6.3 billion medical innovation package that aims to accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of new health care cures and treatments. The legislation provides new funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), updates major mental health programs, and supports major health initiatives like Vice President Joe Biden’s “moonshot” to end cancer. Senator King is a member of the Senate NIH Caucus, which promotes advances in medical research.

Notably, the new funding in the bill includes $1 billion in state grants to fight opioid abuse. Senator King has been a relentless advocate for increased funding in the fight against Maine’s opioid epidemic.

The wide-ranging Cures Act also includes several other provisions supported by Senator King that will promote innovative solutions to health care issues facing Maine, such as:

  • The creation of a Tick-Borne Diseases Working Group that would compile a report on federal research efforts related to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases. This provision would help accelerate improved methods for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment – and is based on the Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act, which was cosponsored by Senator King.
  • A provision that would support prize competitions to develop innovations that advance biomedical science and improve health outcomes, which is based on the EUREKA Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator King and Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) that was originally targeted specifically at curing Alzheimer’s but has been expanded to incentivize cures for other conditions as well.
  • A provision mirroring the Preventing Interruptions in Physical Therapy Act, legislation which Senator King cosponsored that would improve continuity of care for patients by allowing a physical therapist to bring in another licensed provider to treat Medicare patients and bill Medicare through the practice provider number during temporary absences for illness, pregnancy, vacation, or continuing medical education.
  • Legislative language clarifying which types of medical software the FDA does and does not have the authority to regulate as medical devices, which is similar to the bipartisan PROTECT Act introduced by Senator King and Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) that makes clear the FDA does not have the authority to include administrative software, wellness software, electronic health records, software to transmit test results, and certain types of clinical decisions support in the medical device category.

The 21st Century Cures Act has already been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. It will now go to the President’s desk for signature.


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