21st Century Cures Act Passes Senate

The White House

Healthcare is about to get a substantial overhaul in the U.S. after the Senate approved a groundbreaking multi-billion dollar bill.

The measure, known as the 21st Century Cures Act, was cleared 85-13 on Monday afternoon by the Senate. The legislation received wide support from both Republicans and Democrats. The Obama administration has previously expressed support for the bill and it’s almost a guarantee it will receive his signature in the coming days.

USA Today reported that the $6.3 billion bill will provide $1 billion in funding over the next two years for opioid addiction prevention and treatment programs, in addition to $4.8 billion over the next decade to the National Institute of Health for research on a wide range of chronic illnesses and diseases. An additional $1.8 billion will also be devoted to support Vice President Joe Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative, which aims to accelerate research into new cancer therapies and expand prevention and early detection;

This is going to be a game-changer,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said at a news conference Wednesday. “It will fundamentally transform the way that we treat and cure diseases in this country.”

The legislation also calls for a mental health and substance abuse “policy laboratory” to help advocate for better treatment of these diseases. It will also speed up the FDA’s drug approval process and strengthen existing laws that require insurers to cover mental health issues in the same way they do other diseases. The 996-page bill also includes several other smaller provisions related to substance abuse, electronic medical records and suicide prevention.

But not everyone is on board with the legislation, with Bernie Sanders voting to not end debate on the bill. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a staunch Democrat, said she couldn’t sign the bill because it caters to the interests of pharmaceutical companies. Speaking on the Senate floor, she vowed to fight it “because I know the difference compromise and extortion.”