Health care has long been a priority for the Trump administration, and the President used his State of the Union speech this week to highlight his priorities when it comes to improving health and bringing down costs for consumers.
Ahead of the speech, the Trump administration released its plan to curb drug prices for Americans, especially those under 65. His plan proposes eliminating the legal protections that allow pharmacy benefit managers to accept rebates from drug companies for brand-name drugs. Rebates would instead be credited to patients when they fill their prescriptions at the pharmacy.
These after-the-fact discounts are seen by many as one of the driving factors pushing up the list price of drugs. President Trump focused on the struggle this can cause, as many Americans are increasingly responsible for paying larger portions of these prices.
He also called for more transparency in general in the healthcare industry, asserting that if hospitals, drug companies and insurers had to “disclose real prices,” consumers would have more information that would foster more competition.
“It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong, this is unfair, and together we will stop it. We will stop it fast. I am asking the Congress to pass legislation that finally takes on the problem of global freeloading and delivers fairness and price transparency for American patients.”
There is bipartisan support in Congress for legislation to bring down drug prices and to improve healthcare pricing overall, but any bill would likely face strong opposition from lobbyists from pharmacy benefit managers, pharmaceutical companies and insurers.
Complicating the issue as well is the current climate in Washington with the divided government. It is still unclear if Congress will be able to work with the President on key issues like these, while so much time and energy is being spent on other subjects, like border security and the government budget.
President Trump went on to talk about his hopes for increased funding for research on treatments for childhood cancer and a cure for HIV and AIDS in the United States within the next 10 years. He called on Democrats and Republicans to pass his budget, which seeks additional funding for the National Institute of Health for both initiatives.
Both priorities are largely seen as an outreach to Democrats and as issues the country could unify around. No specific legislation outside of the budget proposals have been released.
Overall, President Trump’s State of the Union address covered a wide range of topics but his focus on these initiatives shows healthcare remains a priority for the administration.
It will be a game of watch-and-see as Trump’s own campaign for reelection becomes increasingly underway. He may want to tout a big legislative win regarding healthcare on the campaign trail, especially as efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act were unsuccessful early in his presidency.