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New health care law passes Senate, heads to president for approval

Eighteen-year-old cancer patient Patrick McGill lies in his hospital bed while receiving IV chemotherapy treatment for a rare form of cancer at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center Childrens Hospital in San Francisco. The center uses the latest research and technology to battle cancer. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The 21st Century Cures Act passed the Senate 94-5 Wednesday afternoon and is now on its way to President Barack Obama's desk for signature, something he has indicated he will do. The act passed the House of Representatives in November and is being touted an "innovation game-changer" by its sponsors, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).

The bill will send billions of dollars to medical research efforts while simultaneously committing $1 billion to states to help them combat the explosive growth of heroin and painkiller addiction.

The bill, which has sweeping bipartisan support, is being hailed as a positive new direction in the treatment for everything from mental health to Alzheimer's disease. The president made a statement praising the bill just after Senate passage:

The bill does have its detractors, however, with some legislators saying that the passage of the bill is just more of the same Washington power brokering and that the regulatory regime governing the medical field is too relaxed under the new legislation. According to a lengthy look at the debate surrounding the legislation, the Huffington Post noted:

The debate surrounding the 21st Century Cures Act has come to embody a larger dispute about how government can and should operate. Some 1,455 lobbyists acting on behalf of more than 400 companies and other organizations have lobbied on the legislation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Over the past year and a half, companies who disclosed they lobbied on the Cures Act spent half a billion dollars to influence Congress. The resulting bill is packed with politicians’ pet projects and sops to industry.

The 2016 election, like every one prior, was run on a promise to change this sort of legislating — to drain the swamp. But those pledges, like ones before, will come in conflict with how Washington actually works: by blending good motives, bad compromises and giveaways to interest groups — and holding your nose as you vote on the result.

Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren was a vocal opponent, even mentioning fellow Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, on the Senate floor in a diatribe about corruption regarding taking donations from constituents who supported the effort.

Th bill success came in part because Vice President Joe Biden, who lost his son Beau to cancer, included it as part of his Cancer Moonshot initiative, or his "absolute national commitment to end cancer as we know it today," according to HuffPo. Some of the other initiatives include:

The first two parts of the legislation include a host of intriguing funding initiatives of programmatic changes. There is a EUREKA prize competition [the Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer’s Act] that directs the NIH to establish a competition for innovative work to combat serious biomedical diseases; there are requirements for the institute to support opportunities for young researchers (a major problem in the field of science, where funding tends to go to established names); there are even sections designed to support the national Pediatric Research Network and accelerate therapies and preventions for tick-borne diseases

There are also some portions that have inspired concern, mostly related to the regulatory regimes surrounding the merging regenerative medicine market and stem cells.

One last thing…
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