It’s no secret to say that healthcare in the U.S. over the past several years has been…a challenge. From historic strikes to nurses being left with overwhelming and unsafe ratios to extreme levels of workplace burnout, stress, and even violence, nurses and other healthcare professionals are struggling.
But in a State of the Union address delivered to the nation on February 7th, President Biden presented a more hopeful view of the future for healthcare in the country, saying “everything is a possibility.” Here are some more key healthcare takeaways from his speech.
1. COVID is Over, Thank You Very Much
COVID-19 is obviously a virus that is here to stay for good, but the emergent grip that this previously unheard-of virus had had on the entire world is easing. In fact, the Biden Administration will end the state of national emergency from the virus on May 11 and in his speech, he noted that COVID-related deaths are down by 90%.
While that is a positive thing on most accounts, clearly, the end of the public health emergency status will also bring some change for healthcare workers, including the end of free vaccines, testing, some treatments, and some emergency fund money hospitals had access to.
2. The Fight Against High Medication Costs is On
One major issue Biden addressed is the ever-rising and prohibitive cost of prescription medication, pointing to the fact that the U.S. pays more than any other county. Insulin has been a huge topic of conversation about how bad price-gauging has gotten for prescription medication, with some companies charging hundreds of dollars for a vial of insulin that costs them only $10 to actually make.
To combat the high cost, Biden told lawmakers they need to “finish the job” to limit high insulin costs after capping insulin costs at $35 for seniors using Medicare, so price drops can also extend to the rest of insulin users.
He also seemed to reassure those in the drug industry by noting that while he would veto any attempts aimed to raise prescription prices there would be no financial harm brought to them either. “Big pharma is still going to do very well,” President Biden said. “I promise you all.”
3. And So is The Fight Against High-Cost Healthcare
Biden also addressed the overall prohibitive high cost of healthcare in general, stating that “we’re taking on powerful interests to bring your health care costs down so you can sleep better at night.”
He urged lawmakers to preserve the Inflation Reduction Act as a way to accomplish that, as well as keep the Affordable Care Act intact, noting that as the law is currently written, it will expire in 2025. “A record 16 million people are enrolled,” Biden added.
4. Preventive Healthcare is Key
In Biden’s speech, he addressed the horrific tragedy that has been millions of children poisoned by lead leeching into their water—water supplied by city pipes that their families pay for access to—that has gone on for far too long. The health impacts of the decades of lead poisoning will go on for many years in the future, and some are not even recognized yet, but Biden noted that the tide is finally changing to ensure all children have access to clean water: a vital step towards a basic preventive healthcare approach.
“We’re also replacing poisonous lead pipes that go into 10 million homes and 400,000 schools and childcare centers, so every child in America can drink clean water,” he noted.
5. A Vow to Keep Medicare and Social Security
As the U.S. faces an ever-aging population that will undoubtedly have increasing health needs and complications, Biden also made an emphatic vow to maintain Medicare and Social Security in the country.
“Social Security and Medicare are a lifeline for millions of seniors,” he stated. “Americans have been paying into them with every single paycheck since they started working So tonight, let’s all agree to stand up for seniors. Stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare.”
“Those benefits belong to the American people. They earned them,” he added.
6. Home-Based Care May Be the Future
There’s long been talk that a move towards home-based care will be a big trend in the future and Biden addressed that move in his address, specifically noting that home-based care could help seniors, caregivers, and individuals with disabilities.
“Let’s get seniors who want to stay in their homes the care they need to do so,” he said. “And give a little more breathing room to millions of family caregivers looking after their loved ones. Pass my plan so we get seniors and people with disabilities the home care services they need and support the workers who are doing God’s work.”
He added: “These plans are fully paid for and we can afford to do them.”
7. A Revived Focus on Public Health
Public health has always been important, but Biden stressed that the lessons of the pandemic show us all the need to “remain vigilant” and continue public health efforts on many different fronts. “We still need to monitor dozens of variants and support new vaccines and treatments,” he added.
8. More Mental Health Support
Biden also addressed the need for more mental health support and resources, from policies and tools that could help those in need on the ground level to training that could help healthcare workers better address the needs of those with mental health disorders. “We also need more first responders and other professionals to address growing mental health and substance abuse challenges,” he said.
Biden also noted that mental health should continue to be a focus, especially for children, something that healthcare professionals will see more and more of in a tech-run world: “Let’s do more on mental health, especially for our children. When millions of young people are struggling with bullying, violence, trauma, we owe them greater access to mental health care at school.”
9. Protections for Reproductive and Inclusive Care
As has been his platform, Biden stressed his administration’s dedication to preserving the right to choose and emphasized the need for more inclusive policies for LGBTQ+ individuals.
“Congress must restore the right the Supreme Court took away last year and codify Roe v. Wade to protect every woman’s constitutional right to choose,” he stated. “The vice president and I are doing everything we can to protect access to reproductive health care and safeguard patient privacy. But already, more than a dozen states are enforcing extreme abortion bans.
Make no mistake; if Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it.”
He added: “Let’s also pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity.”
10. Helping Veterans
Biden spoke of the sobering fact that in the U.S., 17 veterans die from suicide every single day. He pointed to the need for more veteran support and service, starting from a healthcare standpoint and ensuring they get support in the rest of their lives too.
“The VA is doing everything it can, including expanding mental health screenings and a proven program that recruits veterans to help other veterans understand what they’re going through and get the help they need,” he said.
11. Reaching for Hope
A large portion of Biden’s address spoke to the hope of tackling difficult healthcare challenges in the country, from the high toll of cancer death to currently incurable diseases like Alzheimer’s to reducing gun violence and opioid addiction. He pointed to the revival of the Cancer Moonshot project, noting “Our goal is to cut the cancer death rate by at least 50% over the next 25 years. Turn more cancers from death sentences into treatable diseases. And provide more support for patients and families.”
“Let’s end cancer as we know it and cure some cancers once and for all,” he added.
He ended his speech by speaking of how the American people should remain “hopeful” and “optimistic” for the future.
“We are not bystanders to history,” he said. “We are not powerless before the forces that confront us. It is within our power, of We the People. We are facing the test of our time and the time for choosing is at hand. We must be the nation we have always been at our best. Optimistic. Hopeful. Forward-looking.”
“As I stand here tonight, I have never been more optimistic about the future of America. We just have to remember who we are.”
“We are the United States of America and there is nothing, nothing beyond our capacity if we do it together.”