Obama Touts ACA in State of the Union Address
Specifically, Obama noted that "about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage." In addition, Obama said that health care inflation was at its lowest rate in 50 years.
Further, Obama threatened to veto any bill passed by Congress that would "put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance."
According to The Hill, Obama's remarks come at a key time when the newly Republican-controlled Congress is working to pass bills to repeal or change portions of the ACA (Ferris, The Hill, 1/20).
Obama Focuses on Other Health Proposals
In addition to his comments on the ACA, Obama highlighted various other health-related initiatives in his address, MedPage Today reports.
For example, Obama mentioned the country's involvement in controlling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, noting that he "couldn't be prouder of [U.S.] troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and health care workers" working to "rol[l] back Ebola -- saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease." However, Obama said that "the job is not yet done -- and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development and eradicate extreme poverty."
Further, Obama noted that although debate continues around abortion-rights, U.S. residents should "agree it's a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows and that every woman should have the access to the health care she needs" (Frieden, MedPage Today, 1/20).
Obama Calls for Increased Medical Research
Obama in his address also called for increased medical research, particularly in efforts to fight antibiotic resistance, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the Journal, research into antibiotic resistance could include new medications and new ways to ensure antibiotics do not become less effective over time. The White House noted that it intends to almost double federal funding for such efforts.
The Obama administration also called for increasing funding for its Brain Initiative, according to White House briefing documents (Burton, Wall Street Journal, 1/20).
In addition, Obama said he wants the U.S., which "eliminated polio and mapped the human genome, to lead a new era of medicine -- one that delivers the right treatment at the right time."
To that end, Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative, which will aim to bring the U.S. "closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes -- and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier" (MedPage Today, 1/20). Obama did not offer specific details on the initiative.
Following the address, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he wants more details on how Obama wishes to have FDA review medical devices and drugs more quickly, noting that the issue "is something that both Republicans in Congress and the president believe is important" (Attias, CQ Roll Call, 1/20).
American Cancer Society Deputy CMO J. Leonard Lichtenfeld praised the Precision Medicine Initiative as "a major step forward in helping us reap the benefits of this rapidly advancing science." He added, "Understanding the research and translating it into effective clinical strategies to improve the lives and well-being of our patients is the logical next step."
Meanwhile, Alyene Senger, a research associate at the Heritage Foundation's Institute for Family, Community and Opportunity, criticized Obama's remarks on the ACA. She said, "Though the President highlighted coverage gains, he failed to mention that most of the coverage gains are in Medicaid, a program that has a long history of lower quality and access to care than private insurance and that millions of Americans will remain uninsured under" the ACA. In addition, she said that "a loss of coverage in the employer market has offset a majority of those coverage gains" (MedPage Today, 1/20).
Sen. Ernst Delivers GOP Response
Following the address, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivered the GOP's response, which also criticized the ACA (Viebeck, The Hill, 1/20). Ernst said, "We see the hurt caused by canceled health care plans and higher monthly insurance bills" and vowed that Republicans would continue "fighting to repeal and replace" the ACA.
In addition, Ernst noted that Republicans would continue to oppose abortion (MedPage Today, 1/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.