Last night, President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union Address to the nation. The speech, as many of them are, was applauded by the members in his party and booed by those opposed to him. He spoke about a lot of topics including immigration, border security, and international relations, but the most fascinating to me was his stance on healthcare. He covered topics ranging from drug pricing to price transparency to nationwide family leave. Below is our recap, with some of our thoughts on these issues - both good and bad.
The first big topic in the healthcare sector that President Trump addressed was pharmaceutical prices. Anyone who has ever been prescribed a medication knows how big of a deal this is. Medicine is grossly overpriced in the United States and it is largely due to big pharmaceutical companies and insurance agencies who have little incentive to control pricing. Before drugs can be made generically, which typically takes 20 years, the pharmaceutical company making the drug is able to charge whatever they please. This is a huge problem that absolutely needs attention - I look forward to hearing the plan to getting this accomplished.
The next topic was price transparency for consumers. I love the idea of getting this done, but unfortunately it is a very complex problem. Recent legislation now requires hospitals to post their charge master on their websites, but that information is basically useless because that amount is not the same as what is paid - every insurance contract negotiates it’s own rates and never pays out the exact amount listed on the charge master. On average, only 20% of that price is paid out after contracting. That being said, true price transparency works in other countries and is a great goal for the U.S.
Funding for public health crises and disease research was the next topic President Trump brought up. He guaranteed the end of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the next 10 years and increased funding for pediatric cancer treatment and research. Both of these are incredibly admirable goals and I will be thrilled to see this happen. Here’s my concerns though - both of these of these goals will require large amounts of funding and attention and that will be pulled from other areas. President Trump barely mentioned the opioid crisis during his speech last night and it is widely thought that resources to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic will be redirected from those being used to fight the opioid crisis. Both are valiant causes and deserve attention, but it is concerning to take funding away from a project that began last year and has shown no positive results yet and redirect to another project. The opioid crisis will continue in the US and is likely to become one of the most deadly trends in our country’s history.
President Trump lastly focused on some medical and social issues, particularly those that are women’s health related. He promised that paid family leave would be available nationwide, which would be wonderful. Many other countries recognize the importance of having support after childbirth and have incorporated this leave into their policies. Many large companies, like Target, provide paid time off for childbirth for fathers and this is a great goal. I look forward to hearing how we can make this happen. Additionally during this topic, he also brought up late term abortions and his desire to outlaw these. Now, I am not going to get into the politics of pro-choice vs pro-life and when a baby is considered a life. However, I will be watching during this policy making to ensure that we take into account both the health of the baby and mother. This is a very sensitive subject, as it should be, and during policy making, President Trump and his team need to consider medical necessity and ensure the policy also maintains this principle.
Overall, the State of the Union speech had a number of good policy ideas, especially as it relates to healthcare. Many goals were talked about that would truly improve healthcare - the country now just needs to wait and see if the government is able to keep those promises and if so, how.