State of the Union Addresses Drug Pricing, COVID-19, Mental Health, and More

President Biden addressed Congress in his first State of the Union address. While most of his remarks were focused on the evolving situation in Ukraine and the economy, the President addressed several health care priorities including lingering provisions from the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), COVID-19, and mental health, among other topics.

Additional details on health care priorities follow.

  • Build Back Better Act Outlook – While President Biden never explicitly stated “Build Back Better” during his address, he listed several provisions from the package that Congress should advance. These included drug pricing reforms, making the premium tax credit permanent, nursing home reforms, incentives for clean energy, paid leave, and extending the child tax credit.
    • Drug Pricing – When addressing inflation, President Biden pointed to the high cost of prescription drugs in the United States compared to other nations. He specifically pointed to insulin and supported capping out-of-pocket costs at $35 per 30-day supply. This provision was included in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), and was recently introduced as S. 3700, the Affordable Insulin Now Act. President Biden also urged Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and more closely tie prices to those prices paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While drug price negotiations was also featured in the BBBA, Sen. Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced S.3615, the Cutting Medicare Prescription Drug Prices in Half Act, which would align Medicare prices with VA prices.
    • Premium Tax Credits – President Biden also briefly mentioning maintaining the subsidies that improved health care affordability during the COVID-19 pandemic by making the premium tax credits permanent.
    • Nursing Homes – President Biden remarked that in recent years nursing home quality has gone down and costs have gone up. His plan includes better standards through increased oversight and transparency, as well as addressing the workforce. See more details on President Biden’s nursing home plan here (WHG summary).
  • COVID-19 – The President asserted that because of the progress that the country has made, and tools provided by Congress, the United States can safely move to more normal routines. He referenced recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that details that most Americans can now go maskless. As this transition occurs, the President Biden outlined four priorities: 1) stay protected through vaccines and treatments; 2) continue to test and wear a mask as necessary; 3) end the shut down of schools and businesses; and 4) continue to vaccinate the world.
  • Mental Health – President Biden referenced the rise in mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among children. He expressed support for increasing the mental health workforce, including additional counselors in schools, peer specialists, and health support workers. The President also condemned social media and its impact on the youth and asserted that such companies should be held accountable. See President Biden’s full plan to address mental health here. The President also committed to addressing the opioid epidemic and the need to increase funding for prevention, treatment, and recovery, as well as removing barriers for providers to prescribe buprenorphine and other opioid use disorder treatments.
  • Oncology and APRA-H – President Biden referenced his recently revitalized Cancer Moonshot Initiative and called on Congress to advance the Advanced Research Projects for Health (ARPA-H) to do so. He detailed that such a program would have the singular goal of advancing breakthrough in areas such as oncology, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes, among other research priorities.
  • Women’s Reproductive Rights – The President emphasized the need to preserve a women’s right to choose and advance maternal health care for all Americans.

Erin Slifer joined Wynne Health Group in May 2019, following a year-long internship with the firm’s policy team while pursuing