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Senate to Vote on 21st Century Cures Monday

December 2, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Following the U.S. House of Representatives passing the 21st Century Cures Act earlier this week, the Senate is expected to vote on the legislation Monday, Dec. 5.

As reported on Wednesday by Healthcare Informatics, the 21st Century Cures Act, comprised of a $6.3 billion package of medical innovation bills, includes $4.8 billion to the National Institutes of Health as well as $1 billion in state grants to fight opioid abuse. The legislation passed by a vote of 392-26. A tweet from the Republican side of the Senate Cloakroom on Dec. 1 noted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed for cloture on the 21st Century Cures. This vote will be a 5:30 p.m. on Monday, 12/5, according to the tweet.

There are plenty of health IT provisions in the bill as well, including instructing the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work with healthcare providers, payers and vendors to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens relating to the use of electronic health records (EHRs).

The bill also authorizes $15 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) certification process to improve interoperability and fight information blocking. The legislation would establish a grant program to create an unbiased reporting system to engage stakeholders and gather information about EHR usability, interoperability, and security to help providers better choose EHR products, as reported by Healthcare Informatics.

What’s more, the version of the bill that was passed by the House calls for the establishment of a Health Information Technology Advisory Committee to replace the existing Health IT Policy and Standards Committees, for purposed of standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria relating to the implementation of a health information technology infrastructure.

Most folks close to the situation believe that the bill will pass in the Senate next week and be signed by President Obama, as President-elect Trump has yet to discuss the legislation publicly. Nonetheless, a STAT News report did note that “Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the minority leader, acknowledged that there had been ‘angst’ over the legislation among his colleagues, and several, including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), have said they will oppose it.”

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