President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Kevn McCarthy are seen here during the State of the Union.Share on Pinterest
Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • During President Biden’s State of the Union he touted achievements of the past year, such as reining in healthcare costs with the Inflation Reduction Act.
  • Biden called for a $35 cap on insulin out-of-pocket costs for anyone who needs it, not just for people on Medicare.
  • Biden also touched on the opioid epidemic, funding for mental health needs and abortion rights.

President Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night highlighted healthcare goals he hopes Congress can come together to achieve, from tackling the opioid epidemic to improving mental health care and striving to “end cancer as we know it.”

He also touted some of the achievements of the past year, such as reining in healthcare costs with the Inflation Reduction Act. But throughout his speech, the president called for Congress to “finish the job” on this and initiatives.

Here’s a breakdown of Biden’s health-related goals for the country.

Last year, the president signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which allows the federal government to negotiate the price of certain high-cost medications, and caps Medicare members’ annual retail drug costs at $2,000.

The act also set a $35 monthly cap on seniors’ out-of-pocket costs for insulin. This limit, though, only applies to Medicare. Biden on Tuesday night called for extending this protection: “Let’s cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for every American who needs it,” he said.

During last year’s State of the Union address, the United States was emerging from a large spike in cases caused by the Omicron coronavirus variant.

This year, the country is closer to normal, with daily COVID-19 deaths down from earlier peaks (but still hovering around 400 a day), and the coronavirus public health emergency set to end in May.

Biden on Tuesday night acknowledged the coming end of the emergency, but called for Congress to provide additional funds to keep the country safe.

“Soon we’ll end the public health emergency…but we still need to monitor dozens of variants, and support new vaccines and treatments,” he said.

Biden highlighted the state of the U.S. opioid epidemic, mentioning that fentanyl kills tens of thousands of Americans each year.

Rather than unveil new policies or funding to battle this epidemic, the president focused on the federal government’s efforts to disrupt the flow of fentanyl into the country.

“Let’s launch a major surge to stop fentanyl production, sale and trafficking, with more drug detection machines to inspect cargo and stop pills and powder at the border,” he said.

The mental health crisis was in focus again this year, with Biden calling for additional support to prevent U.S. veterans from dying of suicide.

“The VA is doing everything it can, including expanding mental health screenings and a proven program that recruits veterans to help other veterans understand what they’re going through and get the help they need,” he said.

The president also highlighted the need for “more first responders and other professionals to address growing mental health and substance abuse challenges.”

In addition, children’s mental health came to the forefront, with a special focus on the impact of social media.

“When millions of young people are struggling with bullying, violence, trauma, we owe them greater access to mental health care at school,” said Biden.

In addition, “we must finally hold social media companies accountable for the experiment they are running on our children for profit,” he said.

Ariana Hoet, PhD, clinical director of On Our Sleeves and pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, agrees that technology companies need to be involved in limiting the negative impacts of social media on children.

“We know that the [social media] algorithm is created to keep people engaged,” she said. “And unfortunately for kids, that can mean it exposes them to more and more risky content. Or they’re being sold a lifestyle that isn’t realistic, which impacts how they view themselves.”

“So, yes, as parents, we can teach children how to question what they see, and what to look at, and who to follow,” she said, “but we need everyone to come together — including the technology companies — in limiting what kids are being fed online.”

On Our Sleeves has resources for parents, such as how to talk to children about using social media wisely, and how to develop a social media plan.

Last year, Biden reignited the Cancer Moonshot, which has a goal of cutting the cancer death rate by at least 50% over the next 25 years.

Over the past year, the program has announced new federal programs and resources to increase cancer screening rates, decrease preventable cancers, fund cutting-edge research, and support patients.

A key part of this will be providing patient navigation support to people facing cancer. Navigators help guide people, caregivers and families through cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment.

These services have been shown to improve patient outcomes and reduce the cost of care. However, they are not currently covered benefits, something Biden is seeking to change.

“Many health institutions would love to hire navigators — or hire more navigators — but right now they can’t bill for these services,” said Electra Paskett, PhD, co-leader of the cancer control research program at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus.

Paskett said patient navigators — which differ from community health workers — can find people who have fallen through the cracks of the healthcare system, and make sure they get the proper care, such as colon, breast or cervical cancer screening.

But this is not just about reminding people of cancer screenings — it’s also about reducing the health disparities that certain groups face.

“A navigator will uncover the barriers that each patient faces to getting the care their doctor wants them to have, and then they work with the patient to resolve those barriers,” said Paskett.

Biden only briefly mentioned the nationwide battle over abortion rights.

“Congress must restore the right the Supreme Court took away last year and codify Roe v. Wade to protect every woman’s constitutional right to choose,” he said. “The vice president and I are doing everything we can to protect access to reproductive healthcare and safeguard patient privacy.”

Six months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, 24 states have banned abortion or are likely to do so, reports The Guttmacher Institute.

Several Democrat-heavy states, though, have been shoring up abortion rights. Last month the Biden administration also made it easier to access medical abortion pills through pharmacies.

“Make no mistake; if Congress passes a national abortion ban, I will veto it,” Biden said Tuesday night.

In his State of the Union address, Biden called on Congress to ”pass the bipartisan Equality Act to ensure LGBTQ Americans, especially transgender young people, can live with safety and dignity.”

This bill would ban discrimination against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.