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February 7, 2019

Trump outlines health care priorities in State of the Union

President Donald Trump gave his State of the Union speech to the 116th Congress where he touched on a few of his health care priorities and also touted his accomplishments in the area.

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The president spoke of his commitment to lowering the cost of health care over all, but specifically the cost of prescription drugs. Last year, Trump unveiled a blueprint for tackling the costs of prescription drugs and since then has issued a few proposed regulations to address various aspects of the supply chain. Recently, the president issued proposed changes to current regulations to restrict rebates that are negotiated by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and pass those discounts directly to patients.


The president also touched on his proposal to change the way Medicare pays for prescription drugs by linking them to the average costs of what developed countries pay for the same medicines. The proposal would also change the way that Medicare would pay for physician-administered drugs in the Part B program that could impact gastroenterologists who use infusion therapies for patients with inflammatory bowel disease.


The cost of prescription drugs is an area that many are hopeful will receive bipartisan support as congressional hearings have begun on the issue and both Republicans and Democrats are committed to addressing in this Congress.


Other issues that Trump mentioned were the issues of price transparency and surprise billing. Although he did not go into detail, the president spoke of the need for hospitals, insurers and pharmaceutical companies to disclose prices to consumers to drive competition in the marketplace. The president also recently held a forum at the White House with patients on the issue of surprise billing where patients were hit with surprise bills when accessing health care. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is working on this issue and a few different proposals have been introduced in the Senate to protect patients who unknowingly have care from providers who are out-of-network. AGA will be closely monitoring these issues carefully to ensure that while patients are protected, providers are not saddled with additional administrative burdens.


Trump also mentioned the need to protect patients with pre-exiting conditions which is an issue that many newly elected Democratic members of Congress ran on in the past election. In fact, several House committees are holding a hearing on the issue this week in conjunction with the Texas lawsuit ruling that found the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.


The president also spoke of his goal to eliminate HIV by 2030 and to increase investments in research by $50 million to combat childhood cancer.


Many of these priorities will be reflected in the budget that the president submits to Congress and will work with Congress to implement these policies. AGA will continue to monitor these issues closely and the impact they could have on gastroenterologists and our patients.


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