• Article
  • December 9, 2016

Congress Passes the 21st Century Cures Act

The Cures Act includes pediatric provisions related to research, clinical trial design and strengthening of the workforce.

With a final vote from the Senate on Wednesday, Dec. 7, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act. An almost two-year effort led by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, President Obama will sign the Cures Act in the coming days. The Children’s Hospital Association (CHA) assembled a detailed summary for CHA member hospitals highlighting the pediatric impact of this final package.

Bill contents

The Cures Act works to build future research capacity and includes provisions focused on the development of new researchers and drug development. The package establishes a Next Generation of Researchers Initiative and reauthorizes the rare pediatric disease drug voucher program. These issues will remain important in 2017 and a focus for CHA and children’s hospitals across the country.

The Cures Act package sent to the President also incorporates several additional bills, including the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Reform Act of 2016. Several pediatric provisions were included in the package that are of interest to children’s hospitals and affect the kids they serve. For example, the legislation calls for the creation of mental health care access grants that help promote behavioral health integration in pediatric primary care.

Next steps for the 21st Century Cures Act

Funding for the provisions in the Cures Act is not guaranteed far into the future. Congress must vote to fund the various provisions each year. Congress is currently operating under a continuing resolution (CR) to provide temporary funding in lieu of a full budget. The new CR introduced Tuesday, which must pass before Congress can recess for the final time this year, includes $872 million for fiscal year 2017 Cures Act activities.

CHA efforts and children’s hospital reactions

When the Cures Act was initially introduced in 2015, CHA and member hospitals lobbied congressional representatives in the House and Senate to ensure pediatric provisions related to research, clinical trial design and strengthening of the workforce were included. The final package includes numerous provisions in these areas, and many in the children’s health community were happy to see the 114th Congress prioritize action on health care in its final days.

"The Coalition for Pediatric Medical Research, composed of more than two dozen children’s hospitals, applauds Congress’ overwhelming approval of the 21st Century Cures Act," says Carolyn Russo, M.D., medical director of the Affiliate Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and a member of the Coalition for Pediatric Medical Research Steering Committee. "This legislation will advance medical research and innovation, particularly to drive forward implementation of the National Pediatric Research Network Act. We appreciate the leadership and work of all in Congress who made this happen, and we look forward to continuing to work with Congress and the National Institutes of Health to improve the health and well-being of our nation’s children."