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

News  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   January 31, 2018

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call for a renewed effort to repeal the ACA in its entirety, he said the Republican-controlled Congress successfully repealed “the core of disastrous Obamacare.”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.

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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