Non-COVID Highlights From Biden’s State of the Union Address

March 2, 2022 – Beyond COVID-19, President Joe Biden on Tuesday hit on several other health care priorities in his first State of the Union, including a warning that the administration would scrutinize private investor ownership of nursing homes and that Medicare was going to “set higher standards for nursing homes and make sure your loved ones get the care they deserve and expect.”

Biden, in his address to a joint session of Congress, also pledged to protect access to health care, to preserve a “woman’s right to choose,” to advance maternal health care, and to protect younger transgender Americans, calling a spate of state laws targeting them “wrong.”

The president also said he was doubling down on the Cancer Moonshot program’s promise “to end cancer as we know it,” asking Congress to fund his proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, which would be tasked with finding breakthroughs related to cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and other diseases.

What’s more, Biden said he plans to act to “get rid of outdated rules that stop doctors from prescribing treatments” for opioid addiction.

“I believe in recovery, and I celebrate the 23 million Americans in recovery,” he said.

The State of the Union address came after the administration earlier in the day announced a new effort to improve Americans’ mental health, and said the White House would work with Congress to expand telehealth and integrate mental health with primary care. Biden’s fiscal 2023 budget, which would take effect Oct. 1, will double funding for primary and behavioral health integration programs.

Acknowledging State of the Union guest Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who exposed the company’s algorithms targeting children, Biden said, “We must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.”

“It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children,” he said.

In response to this part of the president’s address, American Academy of Pediatrics President Moira Szilagyi, MD, said in a statement that the group was happy the administration was proposing to “protect the digital privacy and well-being of children and adolescents.”

Last fall, the AAP made a national emergency declaration on children’s mental health because the pandemic worsened mental health issues. Szilagyi said the AAP “welcomes tonight’s recognition of children’s mental health as a national priority and looks forward to what comes next.”

The American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association also applauded Biden’s mental health proposals, especially for elevating children’s needs.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on mental health, especially for school-aged children and for communities that have been historically marginalized or minoritized,” AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, MD, said in a statement.

But the star of the evening seemed to be Joshua Davis, a seventh grader with type 1 diabetes who beamed from the first lady’s box as Biden spoke.

“For Joshua, and for the 200,000 other young people with type 1 diabetes, let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month so everyone can afford it,” the president said during the address.

“Drug companies will still do very well,” he said, noting that Medicare should be allowed to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs.

The insulin cap proposal — only for those with private insurance — is contained in Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which has been stymied in the Senate.

The Endocrine Society praised Biden for saying he will take on drug costs, particularly insulin.

In a statement, the society noted that more than 37 million Americans have diabetes, with 3 million starting on insulin within a year of being diagnosed.

Those with type 1 rely on insulin to survive, the society said.

“We urge Congress to come together and pass legislation to make insulin affordable as soon as possible,” said the statement.

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