5 Key Healthcare Points From Trump’s State of the Union


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The president outlined healthcare accomplishments from his first year in office, addressing a closely watched issue for many Americans.

President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, highlighting policy goals while welcoming a “new American moment.”

Over the course of 90 minutes, Trump discussed several healthcare-related legislative achievements, including adjustments to the Affordable Care Act as well as new care accountability measures for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Below are five key takeaways from the president’s speech to Congress:

1. ‘The individual mandate is now gone.’

Trump touted the repeal of the individual mandate penalty, calling the eliminated provision “an especially cruel tax.”

The measure, which required Americans without health insurance to pay a fine, was removed as part of the tax reform bill passed late last year.

The penalty is $695 or 2.5% of an individual’s income, whichever amount is greater, and remains in effect for 2018. The elimination will take place next year.

Though Trump did not call for a renewed effort to repeal the ACA in its entirety, he said the Republican-controlled Congress successfully repealed “the core of disastrous Obamacare.”

2. No mention of upcoming funding deadline or community health centers.

Trump did not acknowledge the recent six-year extension granted to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which was part of the continuing resolution that reopened the government last week after a three-day shutdown.

There was also no mention of the February 8 deadline to pass another continuing resolution or pass an omnibus budget package. Such action would likely have to address the fate of over 10,000 community health center (CHC) sites across the country. Federal funding for CHCs lapsed on October 1, so they have been funded by temporary spending packages since then.

Despite the next deadline coming in little more than a week, Trump did not speak on the issue last night.

3. Will call for unity result in bipartisan solutions?

The president’s speech centered on a call for unity among Americans and members of Congress alike. Such bipartisanship will be important in order to avoid a second government shutdown in as many months and to address lingering healthcare policy concerns.

There are two bills in the Senate with bipartisan cosponsors seeking to stabilize the federal insurance exchange markets: Alexander-Murray and Collins-Nelson. Trump’s call for bipartisanship in the final crafting and debate over these measures will play a role in determining their road to passage.

Newly confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar applauded the speech in a statement released late Tuesday night.

“I commend President Trump for delivering a speech that celebrated the economic boom we have seen under his leadership, which has brought new opportunity and prosperity to the American people,” Azar said. “A healthier economy means a healthier America, and we look forward to more such success in the coming year, including through reforms to make healthcare more affordable and accessible for all Americans.”

4. Reduce price of prescription drugs, endorse “right to try.”

Continuing with a campaign promise to lower prescription drug costs, Trump said the FDA is following his administration’s lead to approve more generic drugs and medical devices.

“One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs,” Trump said. “In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States. That is why I have directed my Administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities. Prices will come down.”

Trump also urged Congress to take up the issue of the “right to try,” a policy allowing terminally ill patients to access experimental treatments without having to leave the U.S.

“President Trump says reducing price of prescription drugs is one of his highest priorities,” tweeted Bob Doherty, senior vice president for government affairs and public policy at the American College of Physicians. “Doctors and patients certainly hope so and will be glad to do their part.”

5. Signed VA healthcare accountability bill into law.

Trump promised to ensure veterans have a choice in their healthcare decisions, after reports of substandard care at VA medical facilities surfaced in recent years.

In June, Trump signed the VA Accountability Act, which eased restrictions on removing employees who were accused of wrongdoing while also protecting whistleblowers.

The president said the VA has already fired more than 1,500 employees who “failed to give our veterans the care they deserve.”

VoteVets, a progressive veterans advocacy group, criticized Trump’s remarks Tuesday night. The organization highlighted the push by Republican lawmakers to cut $1.7 trillion from federal healthcare programs, which 1.75 million veterans rely on for coverage.


Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ The State Of The (Health) Union

Podcast: ‘What The Health?’ The State Of The (Health) Union

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In his first State of the Union Address, President Donald Trump told the American public that “one of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs.” But that message could barely begin to sink in before other health news developed: The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was forced to resign Wednesday after conflict-of-interest reports.

Meanwhile, outside the federal government, Idaho is proposing to allow the sale of individual insurance policies that specifically violate portions of the Affordable Care Act. And three mega-companies — Amazon, Berkshire-Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase — say they will partner to try to control costs and improve quality for their employees’ health care.

This week’s “What The Health?” panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Alice Ollstein of Talking Points Memo and Julie Appleby and Sarah Jane Tribble of Kaiser Health News.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Despite Trump’s strong rhetoric in the State of the Union Address, the president has taken few actions during his first year in office to reduce drug prices.
  • The president touted that Republicans had repealed the health law’s requirement that individuals get health insurance or pay a penalty. But that change in the law doesn’t go into effect until 2019, so his comments could be confusing to some taxpayers.
  • Idaho officials have announced that they are going to allow insurers to issue policies that don’t meet all the criteria of the federal health law. But it’s not clear that insurers are interested in participating in the experiment.
  • “Alexa, send me my Lipitor!” Can Amazon’s announcement that it and two other corporate behemoths are taking on employees’ health care create a new formula for keeping costs down and improving quality?


SOTU Healthcare Speed-Read

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In State of the Union address last night, President Trump did mention a couple things about health care (not much new).

Key SOTU quotes:

  • “We repealed the core of disastrous Obamacare — the individual mandate is now gone.” (Fact check: The mandate is not gone yet; it disappears next year.)
  • “We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge. My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need.”
  • “Patients with terminal conditions should have access to experimental treatments that could potentially save their lives … It is time for the Congress to give these wonderful Americans the ‘right to try.'”
  • “One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States. That is why I have directed my administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities for the year. And prices will come down substantially.”

Yes, but: Standard caveats apply on drug prices — those other countries pay less, in many cases, because of government-imposed price controls that Republicans staunchly oppose implementing here.

Notable: There was no push, even rhetorically, to repeal the rest of the Affordable Care Act.

Poll: Majority want Trump to focus on health care in State of the Union


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Most voters think President Trump‘s first State of the Union address should focus on improving the health-care system, according to a new Morning Consult–Politico poll.

According to the poll, 82 percent of voters say it’s important for Trump to address improving the health-care system in the speech, followed closely by the 81 percent who said it’s important for him to talk about the economy and creating jobs.

Providing direction and leadership and reducing poverty in the U.S. came in third, while fighting terrorism followed.The poll surveyed 1,994 registered voters from Jan. 18 to 20 and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

It’s unlikely Trump will put a large focus on health care during his speech Tuesday evening.

Congress failed to repeal and replace ObamaCare multiple times last year, though lawmakers did repeal the law’s unpopular individual mandate that most people have insurance or pay a fine.

Trump will likely pressure Congress on immigration as it works to find a deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Trump is also going to focus on laying out an trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and the recently passed tax-reform bill.