WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley today welcomed Senate passage on a 94 to 5 vote of the 21st Century Cures Act, citing the benefits to find effective medical treatments for chronic and terminal illnesses and the inclusion of his measures to help rural “tweener” hospitals and to restore the ability of small businesses to help their employees with health insurance premiums.
“From cancer, to diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis and so many other chronic medical conditions and rare diseases, strong support exists to foster more innovation in health care and medical science to help spread hope, healing and health for our fellow Americans,” Grassley said. “As a fiscal conservative and champion for good government, I work to make sure the federal spigot doesn’t shower limited resources down the drain. Instead, good stewardship demands that tax dollars are used wisely and effectively to advance medical science and improve the delivery of health care and patient outcomes. The cystic fibrosis community is a good example of grass roots and expert partnership that produces treatments to improve the quality of life for cystic fibrosis patients. The Cures Act will help promote that model for other medical conditions.”
Grassley is co-founder and co-chairman of the Senate Cystic Fibrosis Caucus, announced earlier this year.
The Cures Act would inject the views of patients into the drug approval process and accelerate the regulatory process to bring treatments and cures to the market more quickly. Modernizing clinical trials, boosting funding for mental health care, expanding opioid painkiller abuse, prevention and treatment programs and encouraging the use of electronic health records systems will strengthen and improve patient health in America in the 21st century.
For Iowans, it will open up opportunities for teaching hospitals and research institutions to secure federal grants to help deliver new scientific discovery and medical innovation. Specifically, it authorizes $1.8 billion for cancer research and $3 billion for biomedical research. Local communities crippled by a growing surge in painkiller addiction may benefit from $1 billion authorized to prevent and treat opioid and heroin abuse and overdose.
The Cures Act builds on Grassley’s longstanding efforts to improve mental health parity with specific provisions that will expand research, treatment and care for mental illnesses and disorders.
The measure extends the provisions for community hospitals that Grassley has long championed to support the delivery of health care to patients living in rural America. Patients served by “tweener” hospitals in Grinnell, Carroll, Newton and Spirit Lake will continue to benefit from the rural community hospital demonstration program, as well as residents served by the 82 critical access hospitals located throughout Iowa. The measure delays the effects of a federal regulation preventing physician assistants from performing some procedures without a doctor on site at such hospitals. This is important for small, rural hospitals where a doctor might be available by phone rather than in person.
The Cures Act includes Grassley’s bipartisan legislation to strip an Obamacare penalty against small businesses that provided assistance to their employees to help with insurance premiums and health care expenses. Employer-sponsored health coverage has become an unaffordable option for about 60 percent of small businesses. And yet, smaller employers who want to help their employees were stymied by an IRS regulation that would penalize those who reimbursed employees for health care costs with tax-preferred contributions. Small businesses that participated in the reimbursements could be fined up to $36,500 per employee each year. “This misguided IRS rule is being rolled back with passage of the Cures Act,” Grassley said.
Thanks to Grassley’s work, the Cures Act does not include provisions to water down his Physician Payments Sunshine Act shedding light on drug and medical device company payments to doctors. Grassley fought the provisions, and bill sponsors removed them to secure his support.
The Senate vote today clears the measure for the President’s consideration. Earlier, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Cures Act 392-26. The President is expected to sign it into law.