Federal Cures Package includes $1 billion to fight opioid abuse


CINCINNATI — U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) praised legislation called the “21st Century Cures” initiative that was released by House and Senate health committee leaders recently.

The measure, which is expected to be voted on by the House this week, is a $6.3 billion medical innovation package that is designed to accelerate the discovery, development, and delivery of new cures and treatments and provide new funding for the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration. The measure also includes $1 billion in new funding for state grants to fight opioid abuse, as well as a number of Portman initiatives to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid.

“I’m pleased that this 21st Century Cures measure dedicates an additional $1 billion over two years to fight the heroin and prescription drug epidemic. Coupled with the new CARA law and additional funding I’ve helped secure through the appropriations process, I believe this will make a real difference for those who are suffering from addiction, their families, and all of our partners working to combat this disease. I’m also pleased that we were able to include measures to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid for all Ohioans, especially seniors and those with low incomes. My goal each and every day is to deliver results for the people of Ohio, and I believe this bill will make a difference for them,” said Portman.

The following is a summary of notable provisions included in the 21st Century Cures package:

  • Includes $1 billion to fight opioid abuse. The bill includes additional opioid funding: $500 million annually over the next two years for state block grants that can be used for improving prescription drug monitoring programs, prevention, training for health care workers, and improving access to treatment for individuals struggling with a substance use disorder. This money would complement the increases in opioid funding Portman has secured through the annual appropriations process.
  • Establishes beneficiary equity in the hospital readmissions program (S. 688). This measure will minimize the disincentives for hospitals who serve a disproportionate number of sicker and poorer patients. This provision will improve the fairness of hospital readmissions penalties by taking into account the patients’ socioeconomic and dual-eligible status to ensure hospitals can continue to care for the most vulnerable patients. This benefits a majority of Ohio hospitals, especially those who serve a large number of low-income, vulnerable populations.
  • Continues Medicare payment for hospital out-patient departments that were “under-development”. This measure will provide critical relief to hospitals (including several throughout Ohio) who were in the middle of building facilities to serve patients in their communities when Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act in 2015. This provision ensures patients are able to maintain access to these facilities so they can continue to receive high-quality care in outpatient settings.
  • Exempts designated cancer hospitals from Medicare payment reductions. This measure ensures patients are able to continue to receive cancer care from outpatient facilities in their community, benefitting the OSU James Cancer Hospital in Columbus.
  • Delays the application of the competitive bidding program to complex rehabilitative technology wheelchair accessories (S. 2196). This measure ensures people with disabilities will continue to have access to the complex wheelchair accessories they rely on to live a fully-functioning life.
  • Protects Medicare Advantage for all seniors (S. 2104). This measure would strengthen transparency and ensure that seniors maintain choice by ensuring they are able to keep the Medicare Advantage (MA) plans they want by delaying CMS’s authority to terminate certain MA plans because of the STARS rating system.

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