Health

The state of Biden’s health policy agenda is weak

The state of Biden's health policy agenda is weak

President Biden gave his first official State of the Union address this week and, at least on the health policy front, it was a yawn. Other than a new “test to treat” initiative, which will eventually allow people to receive antiviral drugs immediately after testing positive for COVID-19 at certain pharmacies, there was simply nothing new. But even if Biden was only going to rehash stalled policy initiatives, he could have announced administrative action or lobbied more vigorously for Congress to make another attempt to pass part of the Build Back Better Act (BBBA). Instead, Biden’s comments on health policy amounted to a masterclass in checking boxes.

Biden reminded the nation that the US rescue plan increased federal health grants but, aside from a single sentence, he did not urge Congress to make those changes permanent. The president has spoken of improving nursing home care, but plans outlined in a White House fact sheet are mostly just that: blueprints. Biden plans ask Congress for more money and order the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to study various problems and report. All in all, that’s a far cry from the $400 billion in long-term care initiative Biden bragged in his final speech to a joint session of Congress. Biden also said we will finally “beat the opioid epidemic” by updating prescribing rules and stopping “the flow of illicit drugs.” If only someone had thought of stopping the drug trade before! Biden talked about parity in mental health, but gave no specifics on how to achieve it. He also verified the name of Moon Cancer and advocated for the creation of the Advanced Health Research Projects Agency (which the AAF Jackson Hammond discussed in the last editing from Weekly review).

More surprisingly, Biden is wasting any chance to act on drug prices before midterms. If there’s one piece of non-pandemic health policy the Democrats need a victory on before November, it’s drug prices. Democrats have been beating the drum on prescription drugs for decades, and even some Republicans, including President Trump, have embraced their rhetoric and some of their policy ideas. But the action has been absent (fortunately for those hoping for continued innovation). Biden spent a lot of time talking about a family’s struggle for insulin and detailed a proposal to cap insulin costs that was part of the BBBA failure, but he didn’t. was nothing new, just another reminder of what the Democrats have failed to do. The rest of Biden’s comments on drug prices were contained in this single sentence: “Let Medicare negotiate the price of prescription drugs.” Then he talked about tax credits for weatherizing your home.

The White House could have deployed a number of administrative measures to reduce pharmaceutical costs. If nothing else, there are several suitably terrible off-the-shelf initiatives left behind by the Trump administration that they could dust off. Maybe Biden still holds out hope for a deal on a smaller reconciliation bill — Senator Manchin has introduced a package built around tax increases, prescription drugs and climate/climate money for West Virginia — but it’s just not clear that House Democrats have the votes to walk away from the bulk of their social spending agenda. Assuming BBBA’s past is prologue, Biden is running out of time to move into a regulatory approach on drugs.

In September 2009, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress in full-throated defense of what would become the Affordable Care Act and staked his presidency on rallying Congress to salvage a stalled legislative effort. . The presidential bully pulpit is a powerful tool, but Biden has still failed to use it effectively to advance his health policy agenda and lead his party. Democrats seem increasingly unlikely to make much headway on their health policy agenda.

Chart review: US suicide rate: 2019-2020

Yashashree Marne, Health Policy Intern

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published data on trends in suicide rates in the United States from 2019 to 2020. Overall, suicide rates decreased by 3% between 2019 and 2020, although the rate of 13.5 per 100,000 population in 2020 is still 30% higher than it was in 2000. aged 75-84 and 25-34 (each 18.4 per 100,000), as shown in the graph below. While most age groups saw declines in suicide rates from 2019 to 2020, including significant declines among those aged 35 to 74, those aged 25 to 34 saw a significant increase of 4.6 % suicide rate. Although these results show an overall decrease in suicide rates during the first year of the pandemic, it was also documented that many people have experienced worsening mental health and addiction due to social isolation and stress. Given that existing data suggests that suicide rates have historically remained stable or even decreased during disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, researchers are concerned about an increase in suicide rates in the coming years.

Tracking COVID-19 cases and vaccinations

Margaret Barnhorst, Health Care Policy Fellow

To track the progress of vaccinations, the Weekly Report will compile the most relevant statistics for the week, with the seven-day period ending on Wednesday of each week.


Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Trends in COVID-19 cases and Death in the United Statesand Trends in COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States

Note: The US population is 332,542,447.