President Biden gave his second State of the Union (SOTU) address February 7, 2023. This was the president’s first time addressing Congress after the midterm elections, and more importantly, after the Republican party (i.e., the side of the chamber not cheering) took control of the house. The President addressed the elephant (and donkey) in the room by making a plea for unity between the parties. His call for bipartisanship was a recurring theme throughout the night…as were the two distinct choruses of cheers and jeers.
Biden rattled off his accomplishments, as one does during their SOTU, touting record unemployment, falling inflation, and a growing job market. However, the president spent the greatest amount of time on one issue in particular– health care (as you can see illustrated by CNN’s fun bubble chart).
Biden appealed to those who “lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling, wondering what will happen if your spouse gets cancer, your child gets sick, or if something happens to you.” He asked, “[w]ill you have the money to pay your medical bills? Will you have to sell the house?” As those in the chronic disease community know, these questions are all too real when facing the challenges of high drug costs and treatments.
The president went on to highlight provisions in the enacted Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), specifically those that seek to address high healthcare costs, such as capping a month’s supply of covered insulin at $35 for Medicare beneficiaries, capping annual out-of-pocket drug costs for prescription drugs for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, charging drug companies if their drug prices rise faster than inflation, and giving Medicare the power to negotiate prescription drug prices. As for the president’s wishlist, Biden called on lawmakers to “finish the job” by putting a cap on insulin prices at $35 for all patients–even those on private insurance plans–and making ACA healthcare premiums savings permanent by expanding Medicaid coverage. He also included a very blunt warning to those threatening to repeal the IRA saying, “[m[ake no mistake, if you try to do anything to raise the cost of prescription drugs, I will veto it.”
At one particularly interesting moment, Biden had somewhat of a dialogue with the crowd following his comments on the debt ceiling. In January, the government hit its debt limit, and raising this limit has become an extremely contentious issue with both parties digging in their heels. Biden noted, “[s]ome of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage unless I agree to their economic plans.” He continued, “[o]ther Republicans say if we don’t cut Social Security and Medicare, they’ll let America default on its debt for the first time in our history.” His remarks were met with uproar and the word “liar” can be heard coming from the chamber. The president engaged with the jeering by ad-libbing “…we all apparently agree, Social Security, Medicare is off the books now, right? Alright. We got unanimity.” We’ll see if that spirit of unanimity carries over onto the voting floor…
No one is immune to the devastating impacts of chronic illness. Infusion Access Foundation fights to reduce unnecessary costs and overcome policy hurdles preventing patients from accessing their medications. Head to the Infusion Access Foundation advocacy page to find out how you can share your stories directly with your policy makers to effect real change.