Obama signs 21st Century Cures Act into law

It’s official. The 21st Century Cures Act is now law.

President Barack Obama signed the landmark bipartisan legislation Tuesday afternoon.

The law touches many aspects of healthcare. It will speed up the approval process for new drugs and medical devices, fund medical research to find new cures for diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, provide money to support the Precision Medicine Initiative, fight opioid addiction, expand access to mental health services and support health information technology goals, including electronic health record interoperability and data privacy and security.

The $6.3 billion legislation, which is close to 1,000 pages, wouldn’t have been possible without the bipartisan cooperation of both houses of Congress, Obama said. He noted that it builds on the work of his administration over the past eight years, including the Affordable Care Act, which gives coverage to Americans who have preexisting conditions, expands mental health services and provides 20 million previously uninsured citizens with health coverage.

“These are gains that have made a difference for millions of Americans,” Obama said. “I’m confident it will lead to better lives for millions of Americans.”

The House passed the legislation 392 to 26 earlier this month, and the Senate voted in favor of it last week 94 to 5. 

Prior to Obama’s official act of signing the law, Vice President Joe Biden said the legislation will “harness America’s best minds in science, medicine, and technology to tackle the biggest health challenges of our time.”

And, he noted, it will save lives lost to heroin and opioid addiction and suicide. The law will also provide resources for Obama’s BRAIN Initiative and Precision Medicine Initiative so that researchers can find out how to prevent, treat and eventually cure Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and traumatic brain injuries.

It also will provide $1.8 billion in funding over seven years to find a cure for cancer, a section of the bill that the Senate named after Biden’s son, Beau, who died of cancer in 2015. “It will fundamentally change the culture of our fight against cancer and inject an overwhelming sense of urgency ... the urgency of now,” Biden said.

Click on the video below to watch the White House signing ceremony.