February 8, 2019

In This Issue
Fast Facts
President Trump Pushes Drug Pricing, Cancer Cure Funding at State of the Union
Hearings Continue on Pre-Existing Condition Protections
NAHU’s Healthcare Happy Hour: Special Guest Discussion on Balance-Billing
Miss Yesterday’s "State of the Union" Webinar?
NAHU Calls on Congress to Oppose Medicare for All
State Spotlight: Kansas Governor Reintroduces Medicaid-Expansion Legislation
Senators Mike Braun and Jacky Rosen Are Coming to the HUPAC Reception—Are You?
HUPAC Roundup: State of the Union History, Guest Lists, and Members of Congress Saying Goodbye
What We’re Reading
E-mail the Editor
Visit the NAHU Website
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President Trump Pushes Drug Pricing, Cancer Cure Funding at State of the Union
President Donald Trump delivered his second official State of the Union Address on Tuesday, his third address to a joint session of Congress since taking office. As with last year’s speech, the president used the opportunity to champion the Administration’s efforts to ease the burden of the ACA, including the zeroing of the individual mandate penalties that began in January. He also touted their efforts at reducing prescription drug prices that are part of the Administration’s “America First” initiative, while calling on Congress to advance legislation to expand their regulatory abilities. President Trump also pledged to eliminate HIV in the United States by the end of the next decade and more funding for childhood cancer research, among other initiatives.

As with last year, the president touted the accomplishment of enacting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The State of the Union last year came just a month after the law’s passage, while his speech this past week provided an opportunity to highlight the tangible benefits for American families as tax filing gets underway. Trump noted, “We passed a massive tax cut for working families and doubled the child tax credit…We eliminated the very unpopular Obamacare individual mandate penalty. And to give critically ill patients access to lifesaving cures, we passed, very importantly, ‘Right to Try’…My Administration has cut more regulations in a short period of time than any other administration during its entire tenure. Companies are coming back to our country in large numbers thanks to our historic reductions in taxes and regulations.”

With regard to prescription drugs, Trump claimed that “drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years.” This is in reference to recently released data by the Administration showing that, while brand-medication costs have continued to increase, generic drug prices have declined. Trump added that Americans often pay significantly more for drugs than those in other countries, referring to the Administration’s efforts to implement the International Price Index model, based on plans announced last October to phase in the model over a five-year period. He also urged Congress to pass legislation that addresses price transparency and “require drug companies, insurance companies and hospitals to disclose real prices to foster competition and bring costs way down.” NAHU identified the rising cost of pharmaceutical products as a major contributor to the rising cost of healthcare and health insurance, and has called for cost-containment measures, including cost and quality transparency, to improve the value of care.

The president also called for $50 million annually in new funding for childhood cancer research. This amounts to roughly 0.13% in additional funding earmarked to the National Institutes of Health annual budget of roughly $40 billion, and would be far less than President Obama called for in his final State of the Union Address when he launched the “Cancer Moonshot” initiative that sought to eliminate all cancers within 10 years—a portion of that funding was ultimately appropriated through the 21st Century Cures Act. And similarly to Obama’s moonshot, Trump announced a major public health initiative of his administration, advising that the forthcoming White House budget will request funding “to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years,” suggesting that, “Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond.” The sweeping initiative did not offer many specifics or plans of action, but those could be expected when the administration releases its proposed budget.

Federal law requires the White House to submit a budget request to Congress no later than the first Monday in February. However, the administration missed this date and suggested it won’t be released until the middle of next month for various reasons, including the partial government shutdown that furloughed budget staff. The deadline has been a requirement for nearly a century and is rarely missed outside of the first year of a presidential administration, when the deadline comes less than two weeks after taking office. It’s also worth noting that because of the divided Congress this session, the White House’s budget request is likely to be dead-on-arrival, similar to when the Obama administration would release its request to the Republican-controlled Congress that would quickly dismiss their plans.

Following the president’s address, former Georgia Democratic nominee for Governor Stacey Abrams delivered the official Democratic Party response. In her address, Abrams noted the continued debate over the ACA, that “Rather than suing to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, as Republican Attorneys General have, our leaders must protect the progress we’ve made and commit to expanding healthcare and lowering costs for everyone.” She called on the handful of states that have yet to expand their Medicaid programs to do so, including in Georgia. Other responses were delivered by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) who spoke in advance of Trump’s speech.
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