After a postponement following the partial government shutdown, President Trump’s State of the Union address to the newly elected 116th Congress included outlining his vision to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by the end of the next decade and pledging $500 million over 10 years to fight childhood cancer, the leading disease-related cause of death in American children.
The President also touted recent declines in prescription drug prices and promised additional reductions, while maintaining that he supported coverage for pre-existing conditions. It is politically feasible that the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate could find common ground with the President on both the HIV/AIDS and childhood cancer efforts.
Lowering prescription drug prices is something both President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi listed as a priority when they gave their respective news conferences post-Election Day. However, lawmakers from both parties have spent years trying to address this issue, with limited success. It remains to be seen whether the Democratic House and Republican Senate can come together in collaboration with the White House to craft an effective piece of legislation in the face of what is likely to be intense lobbying from pharmaceutical companies and other health industry stakeholders.
In the official Democratic response former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and state representative Stacey Abrams called on leaders in Washington to tackle the ongoing issue of gun violence prevention and criticized Republican Attorneys General who have joined a Texas court case that would invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA). She urged elected officials to back efforts that would expand access and lower the cost of health care. Abrams also joined the President in pointing out that prescription drugs are too expensive for too many families, and that policy solutions are badly needed to address this.
While health care is unlikely to dominate the start of this Congress to the extent that it dominated the start of the previous Congress, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle still believe that voters sent them to Washington to take tangible steps toward improving the American health care system. Despite the challenges of divided government, the prominence of health policy in the SOTU and the Democratic rebuttal emphatically shows that your vote truly matters when it comes to policy decisions regarding the nation’s health care system.